Soapbox

Here’s a way to add diversity to sciences in California

In this 2017 photo, Daniella Fragile, 12, right, and teammate Salia Harris, 10, practice piecing together and working with a "sustainabot" inside the West Virginia State S.T.E.M. Lab in Beckley, W. Va. The two St. Francis de Sales Catholic School students are preparing to take their skills to the 2017 World Robot Olympiad.
In this 2017 photo, Daniella Fragile, 12, right, and teammate Salia Harris, 10, practice piecing together and working with a "sustainabot" inside the West Virginia State S.T.E.M. Lab in Beckley, W. Va. The two St. Francis de Sales Catholic School students are preparing to take their skills to the 2017 World Robot Olympiad. AP

Our state is a leader in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math teaching. But right now, even though we are a diverse state, California is not a leader in making the STEM fields more diverse and inclusive.

By establishing a California State STEM School, inspired by state-sponsored STEM schools nationwide, Assembly Bill 1217 by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, and Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, would demonstrate that California is committed to connecting all its residents, not just the most fortunate, with the jobs of the future.

It also would help rectify the opportunity gaps that low-income students and students from diverse backgrounds face in accessing a high-quality, STEM-focused education.

We come from two different worlds – higher education vs. nonprofit network of tech executives – but we strongly support AB 1217 because we believe we must diversify the STEM fields.

Harvey Mudd is one of the country’s most diverse science and engineering colleges and relies on the K-12 public school system to prepare students. TechNet represents more than 2.5 million employees in the technology field. Higher education, business, nonprofit groups and K-12 education need to work together if we are to make this dream a reality.

Although the bill’s critics claim otherwise, the proposed California State STEM School would be a truly diverse institution. In addition to low-income students, students from diverse backgrounds, students with special needs, foster students and English learners would attend.

Its Los Angeles-based board would be appointed by elected officials and represent higher education and local public schools. It would support public school STEM teachers by striving to provide opportunities for collaboration and professional growth. Most importantly, it will create an engaging, effective learning environment for students whose communities have been underserved for generations.

Parents deserve access to high-quality public schools that provide the best fit for their children. The California State STEM School would add an outstanding public school option for communities that need them, and embody all that California stands for: innovation and inclusion, dynamism and diversity.

Maria Klawe is president of Harvey Mudd College, president@hmc.edu. Andrea Deveau is vice president for state policy and politics of TechNet, adeveau@technet.org.

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