A recent article from staff reporter, Emily Tate at the Scoop News Group, announced that Computer Science has picked up a concerted cross-sector support with the Trump administration and a slew of private sector companies collectively committing more than half a billion dollars to K-12 and post-secondary STEM programs.
President Donald Trump signed a memorandum directing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to prioritize high-quality STEM education- and in particular, computer science- within her department. She was instructed to spend at least $200 million per year in existing grant funds on that priority.
The directive, which also asks DeVos to explore other ways the administration can support computer science education, will not establish a new grant program or draw from new funds. Instead, STEM initiatives will warrant extra consideration as the Education Department chooses where to allocate existing grant money.
In announcing the directive, the White House emphasized the growing role of technology in the economy, saying that “Technical knowledge and skills are more important than ever.”
More than half of American schools – about 60 percent – do not offer computer science courses today, according to Code.org, but the demand for trained computer programmers and computer science graduates continues to climb. Seventy-one percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, yet only 8 percent of STEM graduates have computer science backgrounds.
Following the president’s lead, nearly a dozen private-sector companies together pledged more than $300 million to K-12 computer science programs at an event in Detroit with Ivanka Trump, who released a video on Twitter extolling the White House’s effort and calling it “enormously important.”
Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce each earmarked $50 million. Lockheed Martin, whose CEO was in Detroit for the event, pledged $25 million. Accenture, General Motors and Pluralsight offered $10 million or more each. Other businesses, individual and foundations dedicated funds as well.
“This money prioritizes and shines a light on computer science as a need,” said Dave Frye, Associate Director of the Friday Institute, an education resource center based out of North Carolina State University’s College of Education. “Even within STEM, computer science needs some attention. It doesn’t have the presence in schools other than STEM curricula have.”
Other organizations, including the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), applauded Trump’s directive but questioned why the administration didn’t show that same support for STEM in its suggested budget, which proposed cutting $9 billion from the education department and would have affected key educational technology programs. “CoSN appreciates the Administration’s focus on STEM education and computer science. We hope the directive now signals a serious commitment from the Administration to educational technology investments, and in particular, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program,” Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, said in statement. “Full funding of the program would help equip all students and schools with the resources they need to excel in modern learning settings.”