President Obama pledges $4 billion for computer science education in schools

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama this week pledged $4 billion in federal funding for computer science education in schools throughout the nation.

You can view video or listen to audio here.

From the White House announcement:

[Obama] noted that our economy is rapidly shifting, and that educators and business leaders are increasingly recognizing that CS is a “new basic” skill necessary for economic opportunity. The President referenced his Computer Science for All Initiative, which provides $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly for districts in his upcoming budget; and invests more than $135 million beginning this year by the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to support and train CS teachers. The President called on even more Governors, Mayors, education leaders, CEOs, philanthropists, creative media and technology professionals, and others to get involved in the efforts.

Here is the full text of the President's announcement:

Hi everybody. As I said in my State of the Union address, we live in a time of extraordinary change – change that’s affecting the way we live and the way we work. New technology replaces any job where work can be automated. Workers need more skills to get ahead. These changes aren’t new, and they’re only going to accelerate. So the question we have to ask ourselves is, “How can we make sure everyone has a fair shot at success in this new economy?”

The answer to that question starts with education. That’s why my Administration has encouraged states to raise standards. We’ve cut the digital divide in our classrooms in half. We’ve worked with Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to set the expectation that every student should graduate from high school ready for college and a good job. And thanks to the hard work of students, teachers, and parents across the country, our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high.

Now we have to make sure all our kids are equipped for the jobs of the future – which means not just being able to work with computers, but developing the analytical and coding skills to power our innovation economy. Today’s auto mechanics aren’t just sliding under cars to change the oil; they’re working on machines that run on as many as 100 million lines of code. That’s 100 times more than the Space Shuttle. Nurses are analyzing data and managing electronic health records. Machinists are writing computer programs. And workers of all kinds need to be able to figure out how to break a big problem into smaller pieces and identify the right steps to solve it.

In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill, right along with the three “Rs.” Nine out of ten parents want it taught at their children’s schools. Yet right now, only about a quarter of our K through 12 schools offer computer science. Twenty-two states don’t even allow it to count toward a diploma.

So I’ve got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science, especially girls and minorities. It’s called Computer Science For All. And it means just what it says – giving every student in America an early start at learning the skills they’ll need to get ahead in the new economy.

First, I’m asking Congress to provide funding over the next three years so that our elementary, middle, and high schools can provide opportunities to learn computer science for all students.

Second, starting this year, we’re leveraging existing resources at the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to train more great teachers for these courses.

And third, I’ll be pulling together governors, mayors, business leaders, and tech entrepreneurs to join the growing bipartisan movement around this cause. Americans of all kinds – from the Spanish teacher in Queens who added programming to her classes to the young woman in New Orleans who worked with her Police Chief to learn code and share more data with the community – are getting involved to help young people learn these skills. And just today, states like Delaware and Hawaii, companies like Google and SalesForce, and organizations like have made commitments to help more of our kids learn these skills.

That’s what this is all about – each of us doing our part to make sure all our young people can compete in a high-tech, global economy. They’re the ones who will make sure America keeps growing, keeps innovating, and keeps leading the world in the years ahead. And they’re the reason I’ve never been more confident about our future.

Thanks everybody, and have a great weekend.


Notable Replies

  1. You know, I think the current push for STEM education and teaching coding in kindergarten, though it might have the best intentions, is pretty misguided. Teach them to think critically, and reason quantitatively. Teach them how the scientific method works, and how to learn from experiments. Anyone who has that has a foundation for learning whatever they want to, and if they have the inclination, they can teach themselves to code. If they don't have the inclination, they're not likely to be much good at it anyway.

    Contrariwise, nobody with out those basic skills is likely to be that great a coder, and our schools are doing an abysmal job of teaching those basic skills. I'm not saying that scripting could not profitably be introduced as part of lab work teaching quantitative and empirical thinking, but making it the focus is putting the cart before the horse.

    This SMBC strip encapsulates this kind of misguided hyper-focus better than anything else I've seen:

  2. Machinists are writing computer programs

    I saw a place that made kitchen worktops, and they had a big CNC machine which could have done all their manufacturing (and a lot more), but they didn't use it for that. They cut and routed and jointed and finished everything manually, and only used the CNC machine to make holes for sinks, because no one there knew how to program the machine; all they could do was run the script to make predefined sink cut-outs.

    But programming CNC machines is the most basic kind of programming there is. Anyone who finished tenth grade could cope with that level of programming, if it were taught on par with history or Spanish, and this business wouldn't be leaving who-knows-how-much money on the table if that were the norm. I'm pretty certain this isn't an unusual situation, either. There are probably thousands and thousands of businesses in the US that barely use the capabilities of their looms / sewing machines / printing presses / lathes / whatever.

    I agree that there's no point teaching people about closures or single static assignment if they don't want to be software developers already. But a basic understanding of talking to machines would really pay off in a lot of industries, and that'll only become more true.

  3. CLamb says:

    "Today’s auto mechanics aren’t just sliding under cars to change the
    oil; they’re working on machines that run on as many as 100 million
    lines of code. That’s 100 times more than the Space Shuttle."

    And that's more than enough code to make a user interface which is readily comprehensible by the average auto mechanic without any knowledge of computer science. Perhaps what is needed is more education of computer system developers on how to interface with humans.

  4. girard says:

    Oh, goody. More STEM education. Well, we needed something to do in those gutted band and art rooms, anyway! Thank you Mr. Obama, for ensuring we'll have a steady supply of young workers to program the next generation of drones and missile guidance systems!

  5. Obama seems to be implying tomorrow's auto mechanics are going to need degrees in computer science, which is hogwash. My mechanic can run diagnostics on my car - but do you think he can debug it? Hell no - that's a felony these days.

    You know what my mechanic needs? Health care and a living wage. Also, a computer interface that makes sense - but I dunno if the President can make that one happen.

Continue the discussion

31 more replies