The Tech Alliance Funding the Trump Administration’s STEM Education Goals

photo:  AlesiaKan/shutterstock

photo:  AlesiaKan/shutterstock

Since President Trump took office, many of the philanthropic efforts we’ve covered have been initiatives to stymie the president and his agenda. The resistance has not come only from foundations, but wealthy donors and business leaders, too. Indeed, it's been striking how much America's first billionaire businessman president has managed to alienate other billionaires and business leaders since taking office.

The tech sector has been particularly vocal in its opposition to some of the president’s policies, which is why it’s notable that several big industry players have found a common cause with the administration in the area of STEM education.

Working through a trade association, several tech companies have pledged $300 million over five years to K-12 computer science education. The gift supports the Department of Education’s efforts to promote computer science and STEM education in K-12 schools. Earlier this week, the president directed the department hire and train STEM teachers, emphasizing computer science, and to dedicate $200 million a year in grant support.

The gift comes at a time when tech companies are facing new scrutiny in Washington and beyond. 

Ivanka Trump joined donors—which included Accenture, Amazon, Facebook, General Motors, Google, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Salesforce and Pluralsight—in Detroit to announce the partnership. The donation was through the Internet Association, a trade association representing Internet companies’ public policy interests.

Most of the companies behind the gift are not strangers to philanthropy, and many have already given extensively to support access to computer science education. STEM education is a popular cause among tech companies, which get to give back while laying the seeds for a competitive workforce that will benefit them in the future.

Investing in computer science education is also a way the tech sector hopes to solve its diversity problem. When Google released its employee demographics in 2014, 70 percent of employees were male and 91 percent were white or Asian. Since then the company has donated philanthropic dollars to getting more girls interested in coding, including the $50 million Made w/ Code project. 

Facebook also has put up money to bring more diversity to computer science education. The company donated $15 million to to develop curricula and train public school teachers to get underrepresented kids learning computer science.

The hope is that getting more kids from different backgrounds interested in computers science will lead to a more diverse pipeline of qualified job applicants.

Salesforce, another company kicking in funds for this project, has reported promising results on that front from its work with Bay Area public school districts. The number of girls taking computer science classes has increased 2,000 percent and the number of low-income kids and children of color taking them jumped 6,600 since 2012, when Salesforce started working with the San Francisco Unified Public School District, the company said.

If those numbers are to be believed, it could point to collaborating with public school systems to embed computer science classes into the curriculum as a promising way to reach kids usually left out of the tech sector. That could be one reason a partnership with the Education Department is attractive to these donors.

Salesforce helped the San Francisco school district become the first in the country to have a computer science curriculum for all grades, at a time when computer science classes were offered in a quarter of schools. Imagine the impact philanthropic dollars could have when the public partner is the Department of Education.