Courtesy of Oakland Unified
A Fremont High student in Oakland learns computer programming during the Hour of Code activity.

President Obama’s $4.1 trillion federal budget released Tuesday would give a major boost to computer science programs in K-12 school districts in California and across the nation, science advocates said.

As a prelude to his budget announcement, Obama sent his chief technology officer, Megan Smith, to Oakland’s Skyline High School on Monday to announce a $4 billion science initiative, known as Computer Science for All. Smith chose the Oakland district as the first district to visit because of its emphasis on computer science.

The goal of the effort is to provide students from all backgrounds the opportunity to work toward careers in computer science, with salaries that are 50 percent higher than the national average salary of about $55,000, according to 2014 U.S. Census figures.

There are about 600,000 technology jobs available in the U.S., Smith told students at Skyline High School. Many of those jobs are in California.

The president’s computer science plan would:

  • Give states $4 billion, with an additional $100 million going directly from the federal government to school districts to expand existing computer science programs and create new computer science programs;
  • Expand training for computer science teachers;
  • Build regional partnerships;
  • Use $135 million in computer science funds this year from the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Services.

Computer science leaders in California were optimistic that Obama’s plan will help to expand science programs in the state as well as computer science education, said Julie Flapan, executive director of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS).

The National Science Foundation, nonprofits and tech giants, including Google and Microsoft, “have been working together for a decade to incorporate computer science into the K-12 curriculum,” said Flapan, who also directs the computer science program at UCLA.

The president’s push for expanding computer science programs “elevates computer science, which is not part of the Common Core State Standards,” she added.

She said she hopes that the expansion of computer science learning in school districts will help bring science teachers together to work on common goals, such as refining credentialing for science teachers, improving broadband connectivity in schools and providing extra professional development for all science teachers.

“But most important,” Flapan said of the president’s computer science push, “is that it aims to provide opportunities to students who have been underrepresented in computer sciences,” particularly girls, African-Americans and Latinos.

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