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Obama administration calls for $4 billion to expand K–12 computer science education

Obama administration calls for $4 billion to expand K–12 computer science education

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The Common Core, for good reason, is the Obama administration's most-known education policy, but the White House has also specifically targeted computer science as a way to make sure students can find well-paying jobs in the future. Today, the president announced in his weekly radio address that he will seek $4 billion in funding to expand computer science education in schools from Kindergarten to the 12th grade in his upcoming budget proposal to Congress. The White House estimates that just a quarter of K–12 schools offer "high-quality computer science with programming and coding."

That funding, if approved, would be available to any state that offered a comprehensive five-year plan to get quality computer science courses in more schools. Funds would be doled out to those states over a three-year period. The plan also calls for $100 million in grants specifically for school districts that can provide new ideas for expanding computer science education to all students — including minorities. The idea is that these programs could "serve as models for national replication" if they prove successful on a small scale.

"Computer science isn’t an optional skill"

On both the state and district level, the White House envisions the grants being used to train more teachers, gain access to traditional learning materials and online-based resources. At the high school level, the Obama Administration hopes this plan will let all high school students take computer science courses within five years' time. Higher-level courses, like those in the college-level AP and IB programs, could be expanded as well.

Even if Congress does not incorporate this part of Obama's proposal in its budget, the National Science Foundation will be setting aside over $135 million in funds to support teacher education in computer science over the next five years.

President Obama said in his statement today that "In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill — it’s a basic skill, right along with the three 'Rs'" (referring to reading, writing, and arithmetic). The president mentioned his computer science push in his last State of the Union, and he even wrote a line of code in 2014 to show his support for the effort, but this announcement offers some concrete details. The efficacy of the program, however, will depend entirely on the quality of the proposals put forward by states and their school districts.