Computer Science Is Coming to a School Near You

President Obama, on Jan. 30, pledged $4 billion in funding for computer science education in the nation’s schools.

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The Computer Science for All Initiative slated for the president’s forthcoming budget plan would include an additional $100 million that would go directly to school districts to fund computer science programs.

Under the president’s plan, the Department of Education will divide the $4 billion over three years to states that propose well-designed five-year plans to increase computer science access in classrooms. Along with billions in federal funding, the initiative also includes commitments from philanthropists and some of the country’s largest tech companies to help increase opportunities for computer science training, especially for underrepresented groups.

“Our economy is rapidly shifting, and educators and business leaders are increasingly recognizing that CS is a ‘new basic’ skill necessary for economic opportunity and social mobility,” the White House said.

The initiative comes after President Obama highlighted the need for better computer science education in his 2016 State of the Union address.

By some estimates, just one-fourth of K-12 schools in the U.S. offer computer science coursework that includes coding. Only 28 states allow computer science courses to count towards high school graduation, and many districts struggle to make the field a priority. Meanwhile, the demand for such skills is only increasing. Jobs in computing are growing at twice the national rate of other types of jobs. By 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 1 million more computer science-related jobs than graduating students qualified to fill them.

A significant part of the strategy to expand the pool of qualified applicants is to work harder to reach students who have historically lacked access to computers and computer training. The $100 million for districts will come in the form of competitive grants that reward ambitious efforts to expand computer science education in ways that reach as many students as possible, with the ultimate hope of finding a template that could work nationwide.

Read more at Wired.