White House Launches $250 Million Public-Private STEM Initiative

White House Launches $250 Million Public-Private STEM Initiative

The White House has launched a $250 million public-private initiative to improve science and mathematics instruction with the goal of helping the nation compete in key fields against global economic rivals, the Washington Post reports.

With funding from high-tech businesses, universities, and foundations, the program will work to prepare more than 10,000 new math and science teachers over five years and provide on-the-job training for an additional 100,000 in science, technology, engineering, and math. The initiative nearly doubles, to more than $500 million, the Educate to Innovate initiative, which the White House launched in November to improve STEM education.

Commitments made as part of the initiative include $200 million in cash and in-kind support from Intel and its foundation for expanded teacher training and other measures over the next ten years, and $40 million from state governments, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and other private funders to enable the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to place more teachers in hard-to-staff schools in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio over the next three years.

To address the issue of U.S. students lagging many of their international counterparts in math and science test scores, President Obama has sought to make science and math education a national cause. For instance, the $4 billion Race to the Top Fund gives states bonus points for proposals that stress STEM instruction.

While the government spends about $700 million a year on elementary and secondary education in STEM fields through agencies such as NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Education, it is unclear how much more it can spend on such efforts in a time of rising budget deficits. "There is a recognition we can't do everything," said John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "We really need all hands on deck from the private sector and the philanthropic sector because the government can't foot the whole bill for this."

Nick Anderson. "$250 Million Initiative for Science, Math Teachers Planned." Washington Post 01/06/2010.