NYC’s $81 Million Computer Science Project Faces Challenges


In September, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all public schools in the city will be required to offer computer science classes by 2025. Figures from the Department of Education show only one in 10 schools currently offers computer science classes in New York and today, schools across the city are faced with a shortage of skilled instructors and insufficient education technology funding.

With Blasio’s $81 million plan, schools can offer teacher computer science training and make advanced technology part of the classroom in an effort to equip students with essential tech skills. However, Phil Weinberg, Deputy Schools Chancellor for Teaching and Learning says, according to the NY Daily News, that bringing computer science classes to every school poses a big challenge due to the lack of trained, qualified instructors:

“There are not licensed computer science teachers today. We will be engaging our staff to continue to learn about computer science so they can turn around and engage (students).”

Schools across the city make do with existing school resources and employ their resourcefulness to bring computer science classes to their students. Others invest in technology but say funding is insufficient.

At the Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology, Timothy Chen teaches his students web programming and 3D printing. His class is one of the city’s privileged few — less than 5% — that get to study computer science at school this year.

Chen testified about the importance of computer science to Ben Chapman and Lisa L. Colangelo of the NY Daily News:

“They’re learning about programming in the Java language. This helps them learn the basics of programming. The age that we are living in — everything is digital. It’s important to bring more people into this field.”

At Urban Assembly, 9th graders begin with introductory software coding classes and then choose to specialize in IT, software programming or digital design.  For student Gabriel Benetiz, coding is a must-have skill:

“All kids should be learning programming and using computers at a much higher level. It surrounds us absolutely everywhere. We should be able to know how to use it.”

At IN-Tech Academy, the administration has invested in laptops and other technology to bring CS classes to students. However, due to the cost of this technology, there’s not always enough to go around, The Riverdale Press reports.

The school, which provides 2.5 class periods of technology education for its middle school students weekly, says it is in need of fundraising and new partners to make CS possible.

Lack of funding is not the only challenge the school faces. Lack of teacher training is another thorny issue, with teachers regularly receiving professional training to be able to teach CS classes effectively.

The Census Bureau says individuals with a computer science or math bachelor’s will earn about a million dollars more than the average worker in their lifetime, Brookings reports. At the same time, the unemployment rate in the STEM field at just 2.8%.