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Trump Commits $200 Million to Expand STEM Education

November 13, 2017

President Trump signed a memorandum to devote hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to expanding STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and computer science education in schools across the nation.

The presidential memorandum dedicates at least $200 million per year in funding to STEM and computer science in K-12 and higher education programs. The president justified the September directive by citing statistics showing close to 40 percent of U.S. high schools do not offer physics and 60 percent lack computer programming courses. Trump also cited racial, geographic, and gender gaps in access to computer science classes.

Adding to the federal subsidy, private businesses committed to invest $300 million over five years for the initiative. Trump’s daughter Ivanka traveled to Detroit, Michigan the day after the memo’s release to announce the private-sector investment. She was joined by Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert and tech executives from other companies, including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, and General Motors.

“Given the growing role of technology in American industry, it is vital our students become fluent in coding and computer science, with early exposure to both,” Ivanka Trump said at the event.

‘Could Help Prepare Students’

Gema Zamarro, an associate professor, and Katherine Kopotic, a doctoral student, both at the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, are researching STEM gender disparities. They told School Reform News in an email U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data project a one million increase in STEM-related jobs between 2012 and 2022. They say greater instruction in these fields could be valuable.

“From this point of view, investing in STEM education could help prepare students to meet this increasing job demand,” Zamarro and Kopotic said. “Finding ways to reduce these gaps would be important.”

Lauding Local Efforts

Lisa Snell, director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, says local efforts to expand STEM would be more effective.

“The federal government has a poor record of driving resources to appropriate economic needs,” Snell said. “It is very difficult to drive specific change in education from the federal level. Whenever administrations pick new subjects to focus on, they have their own self-interested stakeholders and administrators. Local, state, and federal dollars should follow students and should not favor one instructional program over another.”

Forecasts ‘Minimal Impact’

Snell says the executive focus on STEM is common, but so is its failure.

“President Trump is following a long tradition of presidents partnering with the private sector to boost STEM in schools,” Snell said. “STEM seems like an easy and politically popular win-win subject to champion. Yet federal resources are often distributed unevenly and probably have minimal impact on the students that most need access to STEM education.”

Harry Painter (jharrypainter@gmail.comwrites from Brooklyn, New York.

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Harry Painter (jharrypainter@gmail.com) writes from Brooklyn, New York.

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