Representatives Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced a bipartisan bill today, which would strengthen computer science opportunities in the nation's K-12 classrooms. The "Computer Science Education Act" allows federal funding set aside for core academic subjects to be used in support of computer science efforts in schools.
"Training a new generation of innovators requires a keen focus on the skills that will drive our 21st century workforce," Rep. Brooks said. "Computer Science is one of those skills. Empowering our superintendents, principals and educators to provide robust, relevant and effective computer science curriculum in our classrooms will ensure more students enter the workforce with the tools they need to succeed. It will also help us close the gender and race gaps that have existed in this field for far too long. I'm proud to introduce a bipartisan bill that accomplishes these goals with no extra costs to taxpayers and no federal mandates."
The bill amends the definition of what is considered a "core academic subject" in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to include computer science. Funding set aside for core academic subjects may be used for a wide range of educational support, including professional development for educators, curriculum development and the purchasing of new technology. This no cost legislation provides additional flexibility not currently available when spending ESEA funds.
"High quality computer science and computing education exposes students to careers in exciting fields and prepares them to fill the jobs of the future," Rep. Polis said. "However, current policies do not support computer science as a critical part of our education system. Without creating any new programs or requiring any new spending, the Computer Science Education Act would support computer science programs across our K-12 and higher education systems, increasing access to the skills needed to compete in a global economy and ensuring greater diversity in emerging fields."
Computer science is the primary driver for job growth throughout the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field. By 2020, there will be an estimated 1.4 million computing jobs. But at the current graduation rate, there will only be 400,000 computer science graduates to fill those spots.
"I greatly appreciate Rep. Brooks' leadership role in introducing the Computer Science Education Act," Dean of the Indiana University School of Informatics Robert Schnabel said. "The information technology business sector in Indiana is booming and its greatest need is having enough skilled IT professionals. Including more computer science education in K-12 classrooms is the crucial first step towards providing the IT workforce that Hoosier companies need."
Women and minority students are also traditionally underrepresented in computer science classrooms and the computer science workforce. In 2011, only 19 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) computer science test takers were women even though they represented 56 percent of test takers overall. Only 25 percent of the computer science workforce was female in 2011, and only three percent were African American women and one percent were Hispanic women.
A wide group of stakeholders is committed to addressing these shortages and closing these gaps. Computing in the Core (CinC), a non-partisan coalition that works to ensure access to quality computer science courses, and Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to growing computer programming education, both support the legislation. To read CinC's press release, which includes supportive quotes from Microsoft, Google, the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NWCIT) and the Association for Computing Machinery, click here.
Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks represents Indiana's 5th District in Congress and is a former Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Ivy Tech Community College. Congressman Jared Polis represents Colorado's 2nd District in Congress and is the former Chair of the Colorado State Board of Education as well as an internet entrepreneur. Both Congresswoman Brooks and Congressman Polis serve on the Education and the Workforce Committee.