Alison Yin/EdSource
In data science classes, students write computer programs to help analyze large sets of data.

California leads the world in technological innovation, and our economy benefits from a tech sector that generates more than $520 billion annually. Nearly 2 million Californians have already staked their claim in the state’s growing tech workforce with no end in sight. There are about 68,000 computing jobs currently available that earn above-average yearly salaries of $115,754.

Yet, when it comes to who gets these jobs, California’s youth — particularly the Black, Latino, Indigenous and low-income students that are historically underserved and have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic — lack access to the education and preparation needed to take on these roles.

Since his time as lieutenant governor, Gov. Gavin Newsom has stood with us — policymakers, computer science education advocates, and teachers — and has been committed to expanding access to quality computer science education. He has embraced the fact that technological fluency is core to the ways we live and work today.

Yet, California still makes shockingly low investments in computer science education. Nearly two-thirds of California high schools lack computer science courses, ranking 41st nationally. Our state is neglecting to prepare students to enter California’s tech industry, and neglecting to train and equip teachers with the resources or professional knowledge needed to support our students.

Even in schools that have computer science education, teachers too often lack computer science-focused training and professional development. This leaves teachers struggling to provide high-quality computer science education for our children — especially those that are in underserved and underrepresented communities and schools.

In 2019, the State Board of Education, the governor, and the Legislature created the Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan, a road map to expand teaching and learning opportunities and address inequities in computer science education. This was major progress — but we continue failing to adequately fund computer science education.

This year, the governor and the Legislature can use the state budget to jumpstart the solution and finally invest in the teachers who are guiding California’s students. This is a unique chance to end the cycle of failed support for computer science education and our students’ futures — especially for Black, Latino, Indigenous, and low-income students.

This investment is possible in part because while students have struggled throughout the pandemic, the State of California’s revenue has not: the surplus just topped $68 billion. The funding is available like never before, and there is no better time to invest in our kids.

This is why we strongly encourage the governor and Legislature to adopt two key computer science education funding requests of $15 million for teacher preparation from Assemblymember Marc Berman and $101.6 million for teacher professional development from Assemblymember Luz Rivas. These funds will support targeted, equitable investment in computer science education:

  • An investment of $15 million would support teacher preparation programs at California universities that integrate computer science education training.
  • A $100 million one-time allocation over a five-year period to the California Department of Education would provide support for computer science professional development over five years to local K-12 agencies through noncompetitive grants.
  • $1.3 million in ongoing funding would develop and maintain continued professional development for California teachers through the UC Computer Science Subject Matter Project, working closely with math, science and other core subjects; and $340,000 would allow about 1,200 educators to participate in this new computer science expansion.

It’s up to us to empower students with the skills and experiences to stake their claim on those 68,000 high-paying technology jobs. It’s up to us to fight computer science education inequities. This funding is a critical step to making sure teachers have the knowledge, tools and resources to help all students develop the essential skills they need to thrive in California’s modern economy.

•••

Allison Scott is the co-director of the Computer Science for California Coalition and the chief executive officer of the Kapor Foundation, which aims to make the technology ecosystem and entrepreneurship more diverse and inclusive.

Art Lopez is a computer science teacher at Sweetwater High, in San Diego and serves as the Grades 9-12 high school representative for the board of directors for the Computer Science Teachers Association.

Susan Bonilla is CEO of the CA Pharmacists Association and a member of ReadyNation, a business organization advocating for education improvements. She served in the California Assembly from 2010-2016 and authored the legislation for the Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan.

The opinions in this commentary are those of the authors. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our guidelines and contact us.

To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.

Share Article

Comments (2)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. el 4 days ago4 days ago

    Computers are an important part of our society now, and developing more software programming skill is certainly valuable. I do think also though that this is a skill that can be learned and developed at any age if the foundation is right. Fundamentally, the problem is that we don't have enough instructors, at any level. Not in colleges, not in high schools, not younger. In a world where an entry level programmer makes a salary similar … Read More

    Computers are an important part of our society now, and developing more software programming skill is certainly valuable. I do think also though that this is a skill that can be learned and developed at any age if the foundation is right.

    Fundamentally, the problem is that we don’t have enough instructors, at any level. Not in colleges, not in high schools, not younger. In a world where an entry level programmer makes a salary similar to that of a master teacher, and where being a strong instructor is much harder than the entry level programmer position, the solution is fairly obvious, if super uncomfortable.

    One way to help with this is to ensure that all community colleges have a set of introductory computer science courses with plenty of seats, both online and in-person, and offered during the year and also in summer session. These would be hugely helpful for any college student, but also for dual enrollment at high schools. Computer programming is something that can be taught online fairly effectively and it really is foundational for nearly any job today.

    I’d also like to see open access to introductory computer science courses in all of our university programs – you shouldn’t have to be a computer science major to be able to enroll in one.

    Teaching elementary teachers some basic concepts and giving them some lessons would be valuable life skills as well. I’m a proponent of logic puzzles – those ones with the grid and the very specific “Neither Fred, the collie, nor the person in the blue hat are from Centerville” type instructions. Those are great for teaching people to think very carefully and follow instructions exactly.

    Writing a computer program is basically about writing super clear instructions without relying on any assumptions at all about context, and this is actually a tremendous skill for any field.

  2. Ronald S Edwards 1 week ago1 week ago

    I'm a public school teacher of 28 years. I've been the technology coordinator at my school. Yes! I agree! We need computer science technology curriculum and courses at all our schools starting in early elementary. Not just giving each student a chromebook and saying have fun! We need structure and substance in computer courses. Plus, training for teachers. Maybe it's time to vote for new leadership in the state of CA. All I hear is … Read More

    I’m a public school teacher of 28 years. I’ve been the technology coordinator at my school. Yes! I agree! We need computer science technology curriculum and courses at all our schools starting in early elementary. Not just giving each student a chromebook and saying have fun! We need structure and substance in computer courses. Plus, training for teachers. Maybe it’s time to vote for new leadership in the state of CA. All I hear is talk from our Governor and no action.