Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday announced an initiative promoting computer science and technology education, emphasizing gender and minority equity in the STEM field. Hogan's "ACCESS" initiative -- or Achieving Computer science Collaborations for Employing Students Statewide -- is an education and workforce development plan that includes $5 million in additional funding as well as new legislation to establish computer-science standards for K-12 education statewide.
As K-12 schools attempt to close the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills gap, federal support for such programs is key. Under President Obama, there was Computer Science for All, an initiative designed to give schools support and funding to provide opportunities for underrepresented students.
Every dollar devoted to computer science education should be spent on professional development for teachers, said Hadi Partovi, the founder and CEO of Code.org. That includes “100 percent,” he said, of the $200 million the Trump administration has directed the U.S. Department of Education to spend on STEM and computer science programs each year.
Amazon recently sparked a competitive frenzy among U.S. cities when the Seattle-based company announced its search for a second corporate headquarters (“HQ2”) in North America. Thursday is the deadline for interested cities to submit their bids. Approximately 50,000 jobs and billions of dollars worth of economic activity hang in the balance.
The memo instructs U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to direct competitive grant money to STEM focused programs, with the goal of $200 million a year for five years. A number of prominent companies in tech and other industries said they will make contributions over the next five years, though some offered few specifics on on the nature of those gifts.
“Given the high and increasing demand for workers with computing skills, it is imperative that all of our students, including women and minorities, have access to computer-science education,” Trump wrote in The New York Post.
As state and local educators adopt new computer science requirements for their students, they are stymied by a lack of qualified teachers. “There is a need to get at least one [computer science] teacher in every school in this country, [but] right now there’s usually only one in a district,” says Cameron Wilson, chief operating officer and president of the Code.org Advocacy Coalition in Seattle, Washington, which promotes computer science education.
Learning to code teaches kids the mental discipline for breaking down problems logically and then solving them—a skillset that everyone can use. “We don’t expect all students to become computer scientists,” says Troy Williams, computer science integration manager at Chicago Public Schools. “But all students, no matter what their career [goals], can benefit from computational thinking.”
The funding is a part of the White House’s new initiative to boost STEM and computer science education in grades K-12, which the administration announced on Monday. The initiative will combine the $300 million from the private sector with at least another $200 million from the Department of Education. The money will be spent on computer science curriculums around the country starting in the 2018 fiscal year.
The White House will put at least $200 million in grant funding towards bolstering STEM and Computer Science education “particularly among historically underserved groups,” the administration announced Monday. The minimum $200 million commitment from the Department of Education is supposed to bolstered by private sector contributions that senior administration officials say will be announced later this week.