A number of top executives, a bipartisan assortment of governors, and multiple advocacy groups have issued an open letter to Congress calling on the government to devote $250 million to computer coding education for students, along with professional development in that subject for teachers.
The letter, accompanied by a change.org petition, describes coding as a foundational 21st century skill.
“Our schools should give all students the opportunity to understand how this technology works, to learn how to be creators, coders, and makers—not just consumers,” they say.
The business executives signing the letter include the CEOs of several major tech companies, including Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp, and Devin Wenig of eBay.
But executives from several other industries–in media, health care, finance, and hospitality, among others–also lent their names to the effort.
In addition with a long list of governors, superintendents of several school districts signed the letter, including Michelle King of the Los Angeles Unified school system, Bob Runcie of the Broward County, Fla. schools, and Richard Carranza of the San Francisco district.
As part of the argument, the letter juxtaposed findings in a Gallup poll funded by Google that 91 percent of parents want their children to be educated in computer science, while only a quarter of schools nationally offer meaningful courses in the subject.
The petition accompanied news that many of the business leaders and companies that signed the letter were pledging $48 million of their money to to support coding.
A little less than half of that amount, $23 million, is being given to code.org, a nonprofit that aims to expand access to computer science generally, while also focusing on female and minority students specifically.
“Whether a student aspires to be a software engineer, or if she just wants a well-rounded education in today’s changing world,” the letter says, “access to computer science in school is an economic imperative for our nation to remain competitive.”
Many U.S. companies have practical reasons for encouraging robust computer programming courses in schools. The executives and policymakers cite a dearth of qualified applicants for the half-million open computing jobs, the kind available in their businesses and many others.
Despite this growing need, targeted federal funding to carry out these efforts in classrooms is virtually non-existent.
The economic payoff from filling those positions will cover the costs of the proposed investment, the authors argue.
As it now stands, “targeted federal funding to carry out these efforts in classrooms is virtually non-existent,” the lette says. “This bipartisan issue can be addressed without growing the federal budget.”
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