Silicon Valley to Congress: Time to Pay Up for Coding in Schools

Microsoft and Apple finally found something they can agree on: School technology—specifically, more funding to teach the next generation of computer coders.

Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined dozens of other big-name technology executives, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, in an open letter to Congress. The letter, which also included the names of 27 state governors, asked lawmakers for $250 million to fund coding education in America’s schools.

Investing in the future
Technology CEOs have a vested interest in ensuring that students leave school with the skills needed to enter the workforce. But the joint letter isn’t simply about deepening the job pool, writes Zuckerberg; it’s about demand, and keeping America competitive. “Right now, there are 500,000 computing jobs open in America alone, but we produce only 50,000 computer science graduates every year. That makes no sense,” wrote Zuck in a Facebook post.

In January, President Obama, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, asked Congress for an even larger investment—$4 billion—in computer science education, to make students “job-ready on day one.”

Coding as language
In their letter, the technology executives made clear that they aren’t only asking Congress to foot the bill for coding in schools. The companies are also pooling $48 million of their own money toward the cause.

Writes Zuck: “Today it’s clear that coding is a basic skill and is something everyone should be able to do, like reading.”

Basic priorities
The move toward coding in schools already has broad-based support. The letter claims that 90 percent of parents want their children to learn computer science. A Change.org petition that accompanied the letter reportedly has 48,000 supporters.

Despite the groundswell of support though, school districts need to think through what successful coding education programs will look like. Those programs could look very different depending on the different communities and socioeconomic circumstances under which they are implemented.

Does your community support introducing computer coding into your K12 curriculum? Are you doing this already? Tell us in the comments.

Looking to start a dialogue with your community about computer coding in the classroom? Start a conversation now.

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