President Donald Trump will issue a new directive Monday to supercharge the U.S. government's support for science, tech, engineering and mathematics, including coding education, three sources familiar with the White House's thinking told Recode.
To start, Trump is set to sign a presidential memorandum at the White House later today that tasks the Department of Education to devote at least $200 million of its grant funds each year to so-called STEM fields, as the administration seeks to train workers for high-demand computer-science jobs of the future.
And on Tuesday, Trump's daughter and advisor, Ivanka, is expected to head to Detroit, where she will join business leaders for an event unveiling a series of private-sector commitments — from Amazon, Facebook, Google, GM, Quicken Loans and others — meant to boost U.S. coding and computer-science classes and programs, the sources said. The exact total of their financial pledges is unclear.
The new White House emphasis on STEM and computer science amounts to something of a policy coup for the tech industry, which long has implored the U.S. government to prioritize education in those high-demand fields.
In the eyes of Code.org, one of the organizations working with the White House, not even half of U.S. high schools offer computer science classes. To that end, Apple chief executive Tim Cook urged Trump to make coding a requirement in public schools when he joined the president and other tech leaders at the White House's so-called "tech week" this June.
A month later, Cook and other business leaders, including Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson and Microsoft President Brad Smith, huddled with the Trump administration — including Ivanka — on a private call to discuss ways to rethink federal policy through a tech lens, sources told Recode this week.
But the White House's announcement nonetheless comes at a perilous moment for tech, corporate America and the Trump presidency.
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A month ago, scores of executives, including tech giants, resigned their posts on two councils advising Trump on business and manufacturing issues, citing Trump's early refusal to blame the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on neo-Nazi demonstrators. More recently, the leaders of Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have openly criticized the president for ending an immigration program known as DACA, which protects children brought to the United States illegally from being deported.
Many of those tech giants are now lobbying the White House and Congress intensely to restore the legal shield for roughly 800,000 beneficiaries, known as Dreamers. And those participating in the White House's computer-science announcement this week could find themselves under immense, new pressure — particularly from their employees — to use the opportunity to continue trying to advance immigration reform and other, related issues.
Some of the tech giants promising new dollars for coding education came to the table as a result of the Internet Association, the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying voice for the Valley. Other participants include Accenture, Intuit, Salesforce and Pluralsight, an online education company.
Ivanka Trump, for her part, has focused recently on issues like workforce development. "By supporting computer science curriculum in our schools, I hope that all children will have the opportunity to become fluent in this language of the future," she posted to Instagram in June — along with a photo in which she's sitting with her daughter, Arabella, learning how to code.
But that, too, hasn't come without controversy. Earlier this year, a prominent advocate for more women in tech — Girls Who Code — slammed Ivanka for being "complicit" in advancing Trump's agenda.
—By Tony Romm, Recode.net.
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