America’s leading CEOs, governors, and educators sent an open letter to Congress imploring legislators to provide every student in every school an opportunity to learn computer science. The signatories include Fortune 100 CEOs across industries, including tech companies, investment firms, and entertainment outlets. The business leaders are joined by 27 governors, Republicans and Democrats.
“The breadth of support shows that computer science isn’t just a tech problem anymore, it’s an American problem,” says Hadi Partovi, the founder of code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding computer science education that organized the coalition of signatories. Previously, President Obama has echoed the letter’s urgings for an investment in computer science education, saying that computer science curricula could reignite America’s “spirit of innovation.”
In the letter, the signatories also announced $48 million in new private contributions to show their commitment to increased access to computer science education. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, AT&T, Walmart, Target, and others pledged $23 million to code.org. Additionally, Google and Microsoft have committed additional funds, upwards of $20 million, to fund computer science efforts in 2017.
According to Monica Nickelsburg of GeekWire, these funds will be used to train 25,000 public school teachers in computer science each year. The letter has garnered thousands of signatures, and the coalition plans to deliver the letter to every Congressional office.
11% of all job openings and 16% of all new wages in the Unite States are in computing fields. “Ninety percent of parents want their children to have access to computer science education at school, and teachers agree,” the letter states. “Despite this groundswell, three-quarters of U.S. schools do not offer meaningful computer science courses. This bipartisan issue can be addressed without growing the Federal budget.”
The letter maintains that America will lose its global competitiveness and the promise of a prosperous future unless there is a sizable federal investment in computer science education and training. The group urges Congress to provide $250 million to school districts to broaden students’ access to computer science coursework.
The federal government invests virtually zero dollars in enhancing computer science education in K-12 schools. Yet an estimated 500,000 unfilled American jobs require some level of computer-science competency. Emma Brown of The Washington Post notes that most of these jobs, given Americans’ weak proficiency in computer science, go to foreign workers with specialized skills and relevant technical training.
Computer science has long been regarded as an elective class in K-12 education, a kind of specialized course reserved for those students interested in coding, graphic design, and gadgets. There is a growing movement among policymakers, educators, and students to treat computer science as a core subject, such as English or algebra, to which every student is exposed.
“It just seems so ridiculously obvious that our education policy has to include computer science as a basic. The fact that you’d even discuss it seems absurd,” says Barry Diller, the chairman of the online travel company Expedia.