September 21, 2016

Computer Science for All Moves One Step Closer to Reality

Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduces legislation to advance pre-K to 12th grade computer science education

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the Computer Science for All Act to ensure that all students have access to the critical computer science skills that are necessary for success in the 21st century economy. The bill would authorize $250 million in new grants to advance computer science education for pre-K to 12th graders.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our students are prepared to out-compete and succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a member of the education funding subcommittee. “Right now, we know that seventy percent of the 1.4 million new tech jobs created by 2020 will go unfilled. The time is now to invest in our young people, before it’s too late.”

American innovation is already following behind.  Since 1992, the U.S. has fallen from second in overall research and development to tenth, amongst OECD countries.

Today, less than a quarter of all high schools offer Advanced Placement computer science courses. It is clear that schools need more resources to implement this coursework.

Additionally, more work is needed to encourage girls and students of color to pursue computer science classes. Currently only twenty two percent of AP computer science students are girls and only thirteen percent are African American or Latino.

“When it comes to being prepared for the good-paying tech jobs of today and tomorrow, our young people, especially girls and young people of color, need Congress to invest in them and their futures,” added Congresswoman Lee. “I am proud to introduce this important legislation to help ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn the computer science skills necessary for the innovation jobs of today and tomorrow.”

This legislation was introduced with several original co-sponsors.

“Passing the Computer Science for All bill is a critical step in supporting education in STEM fields and ensuring that our country leads in innovation now and in the future. This bill aims to strengthen our workforce, improve student success, and puts a focus on empowering girls of color in STEM education,” said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Ranking Member of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. “Strengthening computer science education in this country is essential for our students to remain competitive for the jobs of the 21st century.”

“There is a lack of African American representation in the technology industry, which means that many of our best and brightest – problem solvers, critical thinkers, and those that challenge conventional thinking – are often not included,” said CBC Chairman, Congressman G. K. Butterfield, who serves as a co-chair of the CBC Diversity Taskforce and CBC TECH2020 initiative. “Computer Science for All legislation supports programs that work to equip students, particularly young girls and minority students, with critical skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to better prepare them for the 21st century global economy.”

“Investments in STEM will bring us the technologies and products of tomorrow. And as these fields grow, so does our economy. Yet, women and minorities face serious obstacles in this industry, leaving them out of not only some of the most exciting jobs, but some of the best paying jobs. This is costing families income and preventing us from capitalizing on all the talent in our country. That is why I am so happy to support this bill,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu, PhD. “We want to encourage more students, regardless of race and gender, to follow their dreams. And we have to make sure that the resources are there to help underrepresented groups, like women and communities of color, turn those dreams into reality.”

“Ensuring all students have access to computer science learning opportunities is critical to preparing them for the careers of tomorrow,” said Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. “It is time for Congress to increase access to computer science education for all, and this legislation is an important first step. As a former entrepreneur in technology, I know firsthand that our economic competitiveness demands smart investments in building a 21st century workforce — which starts by giving our children a great education. There’s no better return on our investment.”

“I am proud to co-sponsor the Computer Science for All Bill. It is vitally important that computer science and STEM education starts at an early age, especially for girls and students of color, who, as adults, account for a large increase in the STEM industry. In fact, almost 32% of the total projected opportunities in STEM will be filled by African American and Latino workers, and women are projected to account for 185,000 of total job opportunities by 2030,” said Congressman Rubén Hinojosa. “This legislation is a step in the right direction towards empowering our nation’s children and youth. We must develop a 21st century trained workforce to meet the demands of this sector and prepare students for the jobs of the future.”

"Disparity is rife in computer science education and this legislation will take a necessary step towards fixing that. Engaging traditionally underrepresented populations in this field – such as minorities and women – will provide opportunities to those who wouldn’t otherwise have them,” said Congressman Mike Honda. “It will also help expand innovation in this country and help keep the United States globally competitive. By providing educator training and programs from K to 12, we are ensuring that everyone has access to the digital age.”

“If the United States wants to remain at the forefront of global innovation, computer science education needs to be accessible to all Americans, regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic status,” said Congressman Jared Polis. “Computer science education and STEM programs prepare students for attainable, high-paying jobs.  This bill will focus on developing the next generation of diverse innovators and help meet the demands of the 21st century workforce.”

“We must invest in a highly-skilled STEM workforce so today’s students become tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, and astronauts,” said Congresswoman Dina Titus. “I am proud to co-sponsor legislation with Congresswoman Lee that will expand ambitious computer science education initiatives and galvanize student interest in the STEM fields – particularly so students of diverse backgrounds can have access to a variety of educational programs and pursue high-tech careers.”

“For girls and students of color, the stark lack of diversity in our high tech sector impacts everything from career choice, to disparities they experience in a digital world, to how they will participate in our innovation economy,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark. “The Computer Science for All Act is an important step in ensuring all students are able to succeed in our high tech workforce and in maintaining our leadership in a highly competitive 21st century global economy.”

“It’s no secret that computer science is now a critical skill for success  - on par with arithmetic and reading. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be nearly 9 million jobs in the STEM fields by 2018 and half of those jobs will be in computer science related fields.  Many of the children I know on Chicago’s South Side possess remarkable technological skills, but too often lack the resources needed to prepare them to inherit the technology jobs of tomorrow. I’m proud to join Congresswoman Lee in introducing the Computer Science For All Act,” said Congresswoman Robin Kelly. “This bill is a great step forward that will expand computer science education in some of the most digitally underserved communities. If we’re to remain a global leader in economic growth and innovation, we need a workforce that can compete for the jobs of the future. I look forward to working to pass the Computer Science For All Act and give all students the resources they need to succeed.”

This legislation has won the support of leading STEM organizations.

"The demand for computer science skills are not limited to the IT department or even Silicon Valley because technology is rapidly transforming every facet of our society and our economy," said Information Technology Industry Council Vice President for Government Affairs, Vince Jesaitis. "Early exposure and investment in STEM education offers American students a ladder of opportunity, and we thank Congresswoman Lee for introducing legislation to help encourage the next generation of inventors who will keep our country innovative and competitive."

“We live in a technology-driven society that makes computer literacy imperative. Yet today, the math and science professions, including IT, are mostly male with few people of color,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “It’s about time we put an end to the gender and racial disparity, and Rep. Lee’s bill will go a long way to helping make this goal a reality.”

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Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Democrat Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity.