Public-Private Partnerships – A "Match" Made in Heaven?

Nov. 16, 2016

Education Commission of the States’ recent State Policymaker’s STEM Playbook notes that one of three key ingredients for a successful state-level STEM initiative is an adequate, reliable funding stream. The report also highlights the critical importance of business/industry involvement to ensure STEM education programs provide the knowledge and skills students need for success in the STEM workforce. Public-private partnerships are one approach to ensure both. Below are just a few examples of how these can work.

Florida 2016 H.B. 5001 makes a $4.5 million appropriation for challenge grants to school district education foundations for programs of various purposes, including STEM education initiatives. The amount of each grant must be equal to the private contribution made to a qualifying public school district education foundation. Before state funds are disbursed to any public school district education foundation, the public school district foundation must certify that the private cash was received by the public school education foundation seeking matching funds.

Ohio 2015 H.B. 64 and subsequent rulemaking have created the STEM public-private partnership pilot program intended to encourage public-private partnerships between high schools, colleges and the community. The program provides high school students the opportunity to receive education and training in a targeted industry, as defined by JobsOhio, while simultaneously earning high school and college credit for the course. Five partnerships are to be funded through the pilot. The criteria the chancellor of higher education must consider in responses to requests for proposals include the program’s sustainability once the two-year pilot program is over, and the private partner’s level of investment, including use of facilities, equipment, and staff and financially.

Meanwhile, 2016 legislation in Virginia directs the secretaries of education and finance to create a public-private partnership comprised of private-sector leaders, distinguished representatives from the scientific community, including retired military personnel, government scientists, and researchers, educational experts, and relevant state and local government officials. The partnership must advise on, and may collaborate with public and private entities to develop and implement strategies to address 11 priority issues, including:

  • Incentivizing greater coordination, innovation, and private collaboration in kindergarten through secondary school STEM and other high-demand degree initiatives.
  • Determining and refining best practices in STEM instruction and leveraging those best practices to promote STEM education in both the commonwealth's institutions of higher education and its K-12 schools.
  • Enhancing teacher education and professional development in STEM disciplines.
  • Strengthening math readiness in secondary schools through earlier diagnosis and remediation of deficiencies.

And certainly Massachusetts utilizes public-private partnerships to further STEM education priorities, including computer science. 2015 H.B. 3650 made a $1.7 million appropriation to the collaborative to develop and implement a plan for computer science education, under which MassCAN must:

  • Promote the development and implementation of educational programs, courses and modules for K-12 students and teachers.
  • Collaborate with the department of elementary and secondary education in developing new voluntary K-12 computer science standards.
  • Collaborate with the department of higher education to create computer science professional development hubs at universities in each of the regional STEM networks.
  • Develop a school district-based program to help teachers and administrators implement new computer science courses.
  • Develop and maintain a website to share computer science resources and broadly communicate best practices and successes.
  • Connect computer science students with industry professionals to enhance students' understanding of the relevance of their educational experience to the workplace and STEM career opportunities.
  • Identify the particular needs of districts with disproportionately high numbers of underrepresented minorities.
  • Leverage at least $1 in matching funds from private sources of funding for every $1 expended within the commonwealth. 

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