Amazon has begun its slow entry into New York City, where housing costs will rise even higher, 40,000 jobs will supposedly be created, and the city’s crumbling subway system will be pushed to new limits. To soften the blow, the tech giant is now coming out with a plan to fund computer science courses for over 130 high schools in New York City, which is about a quarter of the total number of high schools in the city.
Amazon’s going to pay for intro and Advanced Placement college-level courses to schools within the five boroughs. The plan addresses a pretty big need in schools, where coding classes can sometimes be scarce, especially considering the number of jobs out there that could use coders. At the same time, it helps Amazon build more interest among students as potential employees years down the line, after the company launches its second headquarters in Queens.
The funding is part of Amazon’s Future Engineer program, which promises to fund computer science classes for over 100,000 underprivileged kids in 2,000 low-income high schools across the US. But before we pat the tech giant on the back, a lot of the schools on the list are already well-funded, such as Townsend Harris High School in Queens or the private Manhattan High School for Girls. Many already require students to have a high grade point average on their middle school report cards, exist in relatively wealthy neighborhoods, and have limited admission. A lot of the schools have “science” in their names and already offer advanced science courses, such as the Bronx High School of Science, my alma mater, which requires you to pass an admissions test to get in.
While the list does include some under-served public schools, we should examine whether Amazon is actually making a significant difference for those who need it the most or whether it’s just making a public relations play to impress wary New Yorkers.