With the 2012 GOP race well underway, it's worth taking a look at each candidate's stances on STEM education. Many of them, such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, have a long history of supporting STEM initiatives, while Ron Paul has championed home schooling, eliminating the Department of Education, and has voted against major STEM programs.
Newt Gingrich - The new GOP front-runner has long championed STEM education initiatives. On his website, Gingrich says that in order to remain competitive with China and India, the U.S. must "commit to improving education, especially in math and science."
In 2008, he advocated eliminating 50 percent of education bureaucracy spending and putting it toward STEM funding, especially in career and technical education. He's even said the U.S. should try paying students to learn math and science, and that the U.S. should welcome corporations to work more closely with schools to develop math and science curricula.
Rick Perry - Perry has a troubled relationship with science--he's come under fire for doubting global warming (going so far as to censor an article on the subject by a state agency) and has advocated teaching intelligent design in schools; meanwhile, he's championed biotechnological research in Texas and has supported some major STEM initiatives in the state. He even had an unproven stem cell procedure performed on his ailing back earlier this year, although the cells were collected from his own body.
He's said and done all the right things about STEM education in schools, however--he's said students in the state "deserve the best teachers" and that the state needs to "keep improving math and science education" to prepare students for a "productive life after high school."
Back in 2005, he supported a $71 million initiative to create 35 math and science schools statewide, and in 2009 he promoted a STEM Challenge Scholarship fund for students who want to study the subjects in college.
Mitt Romney - Romney acknowledges the skills gap in his lengthy economic plan released in September: "One of the troubling features of the American economy today is the mismatch between the skill set of the American workforce and the requirements of the employment market. The gap between the two lies at the heart of our jobs crisis," he writes. Romney supports worker retraining programs, loosening immigration laws for the highly educated, and eliminating tenure in schools. In Massachusetts, he supported legislation that would have added 1,000 new math and science teachers and would have required Advanced Placement STEM classes.
Herman Cain - Cain has a bachelor's degree in math, a master's in computer science, and worked as a ballistics analyst for the Navy before starting his pizza empire, but he's remained relatively mum on education. He opposes No Child Left Behind and supports merit pay for teachers, but beyond that, he hasn't said much.
Michele Bachmann - Bachmann got her political start by campaigning against state education standards. She supports teaching creationism in schools. As far as STEM goes, Bachmann hasn't said much. In 1999, she wrote a letter against a "School-to-Work" job training program in Minnesota. She said that it moves schools "away from traditional broad-based academic studies ... Instead, School-to-Work utilizes the school day to promote children's acquisition of workplace skills, viewing children as trainees for increased economic productivity."
Jon Huntsman - In 2008, Huntsman supported the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative, a partnership between the University of Utah and Utah State University that he described as a "long-term, state-funded investment in world-class innovation teams and research facilities." Under that plan, the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, a 6-12 science school opened, which Huntsman said helps "address the need for a science-literate society."
Huntsman recently said that the GOP can't "run from science," adding that he believes in evolution and global warming.
Ron Paul - Unsurprisingly, Paul wants the government to stay out of education, preferring to leave decisions up to local boards. He's introduced legislation that would provide a $5,000 per child tax credit for parents who home school their children. In 2007, he was one of only 22 representatives to vote against the 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act, which would have funded the hiring of 10,000 math and science teachers per year.