Tech Firms Add $300 Million to Trump Administration’s Computer Science Push

The companies have said that donating money, technology and volunteers to schools is often the only way to fill gaps in American school systems’ STEM offerings. Half of all schools in the country with students in kindergarten through 12th grade, where the money announced on Tuesday is to go, offer computer science education. In rural areas, the percentage is even smaller.

“It’s essential that the public and private sectors work together to ensure all American students have the opportunity to learn computer science and take part in the fastest growing sector of our economy,” Michael Beckerman, chief executive of the Internet Association, a trade group that announced the new donations, said in a statement.

The money will be disbursed over a five-year period, with Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce contributing $50 million each. Lockheed Martin said it would donate $25 million and Accenture, General Motors and Pluralsight, an online education company, said they would give $10 million apiece.

Some companies will also donate software and other technology as part of the initiative. Salesforce.org, Salesforce’s philanthropy arm, said it would give 10 software subscriptions to every school in the country.

Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s eldest daughter and one of his senior advisers, began organizing the effort about two months ago. She said the $500 million in combined federal and corporate money would be directed to all schools with the goal of trying to bridge a skills divide that she said was hurting the American economy.

Ms. Trump said that six million jobs in the United States were going unfilled largely because not enough students were being educated in computer science and other STEM-related skills. And nine out of every 10 software-related jobs in the country are outside Silicon Valley, according to Code.org, an organization working on the initiative with the Trump adminstration, and two-thirds of the companies that employ computer science professionals are banks, hospitals and other firms not strictly considered part of the tech industry.

“It’s easy to classify computer science as tech to enable getting a job in Silicon Valley or New York,” Ms. Trump said in an interview, “but the reality is that computer skills and coding is relevant and foundational for every sector and every industry across the economy and tech is increasingly the way we work.”

Ms. Trump said the Education Department would focus its attention on grant applications related to computer science and to proposals that catered to computer science education for girls and students from minority backgrounds.

Mr. Trump’s memorandum on the financing did not guarantee that $200 million in annual grants would go entirely toward computer science education. In a news release, the Education Department said it had a “goal of devoting” that sum each year toward STEM and computer science education. On Monday, Ms. Trump called 20 state governors and dozens of school superintendents to encourage them to submit grant applications.

Mr. Trump’s order could take effect more quickly than an initiative the Obama administration announced last year to spend $4 billion on STEM and computer science education over several years, experts said. Congress did not approve that plan.

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Source: New York Times – Technology

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