California looks to expand computer science education

09-27-16

(Sacramento) - California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed into law a bill creating an advisory panel charged with developing a long-term, computer science strategic implementation plan. AB 2329, authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D - Concord) and co-sponsored by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and TechNet, aims to ensure that all students will have access to computer science education.

"California currently has tens-of-thousands of open computing jobs where salaries are significantly higher than the state average, but our education system is not aligned to meet this workforce need and economic opportunity," said Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. "With the Governor's signature, California is taking a step toward expanding computer science education and taps into an industry of prosperity and upward social mobility where, for the first time, the state has a plan to ensure that students of all backgrounds can participate in a modern workforce where advanced computing skills are in high demand."

Only a quarter of California's high schools offer any computer science courses, a disparity punctuated by striking gender and racial gaps. Of California's 3,525 computer science graduates in 2014, only 15% were female. In 2015, of the approximately 8,700 high school students in California who took the AP Computer Science exam, just 26% were female, 973 were Hispanic, and only 148 were black.

"California has long been home to a rapidly-growing technology sector,"said Assemblymember Susan Bonilla. "It is imperative that the education and training of all our students not only matches this demand, but begins at a young age. AB 2329 will ensure that our students, especially those from underrepresented communities, are prepared by developing a plan for computer science curriculum and the necessary resources in every K-12 school across the state."

Significantly, AB 2329 also aligns California with President Obama's Computer Science for All initiative and better positions the state to leverage any future federal funds for computer science education.

"By 2018, more than half of all science and technology jobs are projected to be in computer science-related fields. Yet, only one in four high schools offers computer science, and in many schools, girls and students of color are woefully underrepresented," said Andrea Deveau, Executive Director at TechNet. "With the signing of AB 2329, California has the opportunity to lead the nation in developing a comprehensive plan for computer science education, and ensure access for all."

AB 2329 was supported by a broad coalition of business, technology, nonprofit and advocacy organizations including but not limited to: TechNet, Microsoft, Facebook, California Chamber of Commerce, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, LA Area Chamber of Commerce, ACCESS, Code.org, Children's Defense Fund - California, Education Trust-West, Children Now and the Campaign for College Opportunity. The Superintendents of the Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and San Francisco Unified School Districts also lent their support.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

"California took an important step today in recognizing that computer science skills are critical to the jobs of the future-and not just jobs in the tech industry, but all industries," said Fred Humphries, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for U.S. Government Affairs. "Thank you Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom for your leadership on AB 2329. We now hope other states will follow your lead and add to the steady and increasing drumbeat of support for computer science education around the country."

"AB 2329 positions California as a national leader in computer science education, and will leverage and build upon the important work being done across the state," said Amy Hirotaka, Director of State Government Affairs, Code.org.

"We applaud the Governor's leadership in signing AB2329, which will engage multiple stakeholders' to develop a strategic computer science education plan," said Julie Flapan, executive director of ACCESS, "ensuring all students, especially underrepresented students in computer science - girls, low-income students and students of color - have access to meaningful and high quality computer science education in schools across California."

BACKGROUND

One of the barriers preventing more schools from offering computer science, and therefore more students from taking it, is the University of California and California State University's failure to recognize computer science as a core mathematics or science course, but rather as an elective.

In December 2015, Lieutenant Governor Newsom spearheaded a letter signed by dozens of key political, business and nonprofit leaders to the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), the UC committee armed with the ability to reclassify the course.

As a member of the Quantitative Reasoning Task Force established by the California State University Academic Senate, the Lieutenant Governor successfully lobbied for inclusion of computer science in the final report, moving the CSU one step closer to recognizing computer science as a viable option for a high school mathematics course. The report is currently being considered by the CSU Academic Senate.

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