Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is carrying legislation that could amend how the nation defines its core academic subjects by adding computer science to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The Computer Science Education Act, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) would allow federal funding set aside for core academic subjects to be used in support of computer science programs in K-12 classrooms.
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.
“High quality computer science and computing education exposes students to careers in exciting fields and prepares them to fill the jobs of the future,” Polis said in a news release. “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 science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, the release stated. 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.
“Training a new generation of innovators requires a keen focus on the skills that will drive our 21st century workforce,” Brooks said in the release. “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.”
Women and minority students, who have traditionally been underrepresented in computer science classrooms and the computer science workforce, also will benefit from the legislation, the release stated.
In 2011, only 19 percent of advanced placement computer science test takers were women, even though they represented 56 percent of test takers overall, according to the release. Only 25 percent of the computer science workforce was female in 2011, with just 3 percent being African American women and one percent Hispanic women.
The bill “will also help us close the gender and race gaps that have existed in this field for far too long,” Brooks said in the release. “I’m proud to introduce a bipartisan bill that accomplishes these goals with no extra costs to taxpayers and no federal mandates.”