Iowa’s three public universities are asking the state for five and half million dollars to establish a new math and science initiative. University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen presented the plan Monday to a legislative committee studying Iowa’s workforce shortage.
Allen says the initiative is fundamentally important to economic development. He warned lawmakers that the state is "hemorrhaging" math and science teachers, losing half within five years on the job. Allen says the universities hope they can encourage more freshmen to consider the profession by offering financial incentives and creating a specialist degree for elementary school teachers.
Allen says market forces are going to drive students into engineering and science because of higher pay. He says salaries for math and science teachers must also improve. Allen says the "salary factor" is not just bad news for schools but also for the very companies that steal away math and science teachers. He asks, who’s going to train the next generation of researchers and engineers?
"The fact is our industries, that we think are the fastest growing and most important, are going to require math and science based education," Allen said. "To be competitive in those fields, students will have to be better prepared." The Iowa Department of Education reports the state was short 173 science teachers last year and 121 math teachers.