(This article originally appeared on GeekWire on March 8)
Big names in the tech world are partnering with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to launch the Computer Science Education Coalition, which aims to increase congressional funding for K-12 computer science education, the group announced today.
Currently, the coalition has 43 members, including tech companies Amazon, Code.org, Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Microsoft, TechNet and Yahoo. The goal of the organization is to get Congress to provide $250 million in funding for K-12 computer science education.
“By investing in K-12 computer science, Congress has the opportunity to give every student a chance to participate in the fastest-growing, highest-paid jobs in the U.S. and address the diversity problem within our tech sector,” said Hadi Partovi, CEO of Code.org, in a news release.
The coalition argues that computer science education is crucial for America to remain both educationally and economically competitive in an increasingly tech-centric world. Right now, there are more than 600,000 open positions in computing in the United States. However, American universities graduate only about 43,000 computer scientists, meaning that the rest of those open positions are filled by foreign nationals, the coalition said.
For Americans to be able to fill the positions, more of them need to be trained in computer science. But a recent Google-Gallup poll showed only one in four schools teach any computer science at all, the coalition said. Of computer science students trained in the United States, the majority are white men. By offering a broad K-12 education initiative, traditionally disadvantaged groups including women and minorities will have a chance to participate from an early age in a field that offers high social mobility.
While there are some successful state-led initiatives for computer science education, comprehensive federal strategies and targeted funding for computer science are still lacking, according to Erin Kanoy Siefring, chair of the Computer Science Education Coalition. GeekWire has reported on some of these state-led education programs, including the recent partnership between Rhode Island and Microsoft’s Technology Education And Literacy in Schools (TEALS).
The $250 million investment for which the Computer Science Education Coalition is pushing will work in conjunction with Obama’s recently-passed Every Student Succeeds Act, which gave state and local school districts more flexibility to fund computer science but did not provide a dedicated source of funding, the coalition said. It also would build upon the $4 billion that Obama set aside in his budget for schools that submit comprehensive plans to build K-12 computer science programs.
“At a time when every industry in every state is impacted by advances in computer technology, our schools should give all students the opportunity to understand how this technology works, to learn how to be creators, coders, and makers — not just consumers,” several members of the Computer Science Education Coalition wrote in an open letter to ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.