White House

Obama seeks $4B to train the techies of tomorrow

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President Barack Obama is requesting more than $4 billion in the upcoming budget to support a new initiative to make computer science part of the public school curriculum.

"In the new economy, computer science isn't an optional skill -- it's a basic skill, right along with the three Rs," Obama said in a recent weekly address. But in many states students can't take computer science classes for credit, and only about 25 percent of schools even offer such coursework, despite overwhelming demand from parents.

Obama hopes to obtain funding from Congress and use existing funds at the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to train more teachers and generate support from governors, mayors and the technology community.

A White House fact sheet states that "providing access to [computer science] is a critical step for ensuring that our nation remains competitive in the global economy and strengthens its cybersecurity."

Under the plan, the Education Department would dole out $4 billion to states that submit five-year plans for integrating computer science coursework into public schools' curricula. Additionally, NSF and CNCS would commit $120 million and $17 million, respectively, to fund the initiative.

The administration pointed out in press materials that access to computer science training in public schools is especially limited for African American and Latino students. And even when students do have access, data indicates that girls and minorities take Advanced Placement exams in computer science in disproportionately low numbers.

"We are really excited about what we can accomplish together," Acting Secretary of Education John King told reporters during a Jan. 29 conference call.

Microsoft President Brad Smith added, "This isn't just a tech issue, this isn't just an education issue," but in fact it is an "economic social imperative."

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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