Obama seeks $4B for computer science classes – USA TODAY
WASHINGTONÂ â President Obama will ask CongressÂ for more than $4.2 billion to reboot computer science education programs in what the White House is calling an “Eisenhower moment” for technical education.
The three-year initiative, called Computer Science For All, would help train teachers, equip classrooms, and develop new class materials.
“We have to make sure all our kids are equipped for the jobs of the future â which means not just being able to work with computers, but developing the analytical and coding skills to power our innovation economy,”Â Obama said in his weekly radio address Saturday.Â “Todayâs auto mechanics arenât just sliding under cars to change the oil; theyâre working on machines that run on as many as 100 million lines of code.Â Thatâs 100 times more than the Space Shuttle.”Â
But the United States faces a growing skills gap when it comes to jobs requiring computer programming skillsÂ âÂ or even the soft skills of computer literacy. “It’s not just working with computers, but developing the computational thinking, and analytical coding skills,” said Megan Smith, the White House’s chief technology adviser. She said closing that gap will require “anÂ ambitious, all-hands-on-deck effort.”
Only a quarter of U.S. K-12 schools offer some kind of computer programming class, and only 28 states even allow computer science to count toward the requirements for graduation.
There are also demographic challenges.
Last year, onlyÂ 15%Â of high schools offered any Advanced Placement computer scienceÂ courses. Of those who took the test seeking college credit,Â only 22%Â were girls, and 13%Â were African-American or Hispanic.
If approved by Congress in the 2017 budget, the bulk of the funding would go to states to beef up computer science courses beginning as early as preschool. TheÂ National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service would also set aside money for teacher training efforts.
Microsoft is an early supporter of the initiative, with company presidentÂ President Brad pledgingÂ $75 million to expand its computer science education programs. “We clearly need the tech sector to continue to do more,” he said. “But there is no way that the private sectorÂ or philanthropy can fill the gap by itself.”