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Trump's salary donation to STEM is a "political stunt," education experts say

The president has contributed $100,000 of his annual salary to a STEM camp for students, the secretary of education announced.

Emily Tate
Emily Tate Tech Editor

Emily Tate is a reporter and tech editor for EdScoop. She writes about the latest developments in technology, applications and digital learning for...

President Trump donated his Q2 salary to a STEM camp for students, the education department said. (Flickr)

President Donald Trump has donated his second-quarter presidential salary to support STEM education, secretary Betsy Devos announced Wednesday. But education experts were left scratching their heads over what the gesture would accomplish.

The donation, which amounts to $100,000 of his annual salary, will be used “to host a STEM-focused camp for students” at the Department of Education, Devos said at a White House press briefing.

“Today’s and tomorrow’s economy requires engaged students, boys and girls, are prepared for STEM careers,” Devos said. “We want to encourage as many children as possible to explore STEM fields in the hope that many develop a passion for these fields.”

The announcement marked one of the rare public expressions of support for science, technology, engineering and math programs by the Trump administration. It also came as somewhat of a surprise in light of the administration's relative disregard for science-based initiatives.

Devos's comments — and the donation itself — perplexed many educators and experts who recognize that $100,000 will only go so far in the face of billions of dollars in proposed budget cuts for the Department of Education.

“It's a political stunt, and a strange one,” said Jon Valant, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy.

The $100,000 donation is "a drop in the bucket, given the [administration’s] significant proposed cuts to education in general,” said Shayna Cook, a policy analyst for New America’s education program. “It’s really just an empty gesture.”

Devos has shown an interest in STEM education since beginning her tenure as secretary, Cook said, but that didn't seem to affect the fate of STEM-related programs in Trump's budget proposal. Devos praised the president's “generous gift,” adding that “the President has truly shown his commitment to our nation’s students and to reforming education in America so that every child, no matter their ZIP code, has access to a high-quality education.”

But that didn't seem to square with the president's budget plans, said Valant.

“The president called for massive cuts to the Department of Education's budget that would have significantly reduced funding for STEM education, including out-of-school STEM education … and the timing of this announcement highlights the fact that even Congressional Republicans have shown recently that they find Trump's proposed cuts much too severe,” Valant said, referring to the recently approved House spending bill, which ignored many of the Trump administration's recommendations.

This contribution should not be seen as “a substantive indication of Trump’s agenda regarding STEM education,” said Elizabeth Mann, also an education fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Overall, I think President Trump’s budget proposal speaks much more loudly than this salary donation.”

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Education IT News, Department of Education, Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, STEM, Presidential salary

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