In his final State Of The Union address earlier this month, President Obama called for providing hands-on computer science classes for all students to make them “job ready on day one.” Today, he is unveiling how he plans to do that with his upcoming budget.
The President’s Computer Science for All Initiative seeks to provide $4 billion in funding for states and an additional $100 million directly to school districts in a push to provide access to computer science training in K-12 public schools. The money would go toward things like training teachers, providing instructional materials, and getting kids involved in computer science early in elementary and middle school. In addition, starting this year, a $135 million investment from the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service will go toward training teachers in computer science.
In a call with reporters, U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith said many parents already want to give their children access to computer science classes, but the failing lies in the schools themselves. Only about a quarter of all K-12 schools in the U.S. offer computer science learning opportunities, and in 22 states, computer science doesn’t count toward a high school diploma. Smith called the President’s plan “an ambitious, all-hands-on-deck effort to get every student in America an early start for the skills they need to be part of the new economy.”
Before states could access any of the $4 billion, they would need to submit five-year plans for how the money would be used. The $100 million would go toward competitive grants for school districts leading the way to expand their computer science efforts.
Acting education secretary John King said the new initiative is a call to action. Coinciding with the announcement, a handful of organizations, including Google and Microsoft, are launching campaigns to expand computer science investment and training.
“Today is just the beginning,” King said. “If we all do our part, we can create a movement that gets students ready for the future and gives them a voice in shaping that future.”