The Computer Science Education Act’s Small Change Pays Enormous Dividends
Earlier this month a bipartisan group of members in the House of Representatives introduced HR 2536, the Computer Science Education Act (CSEA). The CSEA is a modest and rather innocuous proposal that would redefine computer science as a “core academic subject” in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In the simplest terms, this means that federal funds could be used to support the teaching of computer science, much like English, history, and geography, and others are now. While this may look like a small technical change, the end result is likely to pay enormous dividends for both our students and economy.
Our economy’s skills mismatch is well documented. Today’s economic ecosystem is heavily dependent on bright and creative minds that are adept in computer science. These minds are often responsible for groundbreaking discoveries that lead to job creation and a vibrant economy. Unfortunately, far too many students are attempting to enter today’s workplace without the needed proficiencies, and in turn, weighing on our economy. Just last month, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce concluded that nearly 2 million jobs are vacant right now because of the skills mismatch. Likewise, Change the Equation, a leading STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) advocacy group, reported that there are almost two vacant STEM jobs for every one unemployed worker.
Absent any concerted action by policymakers and stakeholders, the mismatch is certain to get worse. The Department of Commerce estimates that STEM job growth will be greater than any other occupation over the next decade.
It is against this backdrop that we are reminded how critical a forward-thinking curriculum is to maintaining our global competitiveness. Computer science is a key component of the larger STEM curriculum, and as economies –and students –abroad continue to develop and become more dynamic, it’s time for our policymakers to take the necessary steps to arm our students with those in-demand skills that will get our economy operating on all cylinders again.
CSEA’s commonsense approach to tackle the country’s skills mismatch should be an issue both parties in Congress can rally behind. It doesn’t require any new taxes or spending, it doesn’t create a new federal program or agency, and it doesn’t force-feed curriculum to school districts around the country. Instead, this small change would simply mark our nation’s commitment to computer science, clarifying that already appropriated funds can be used to support it in the classroom, whether that is through teacher training or curriculum development.
Given the nation’s sluggish economic recovery, we welcome the opportunity to lend our support to the CSEA and urge Congress to approve the legislation. By no means would passage of CSEA signal the end of our economic doldrums. Instead, CSEA passage would be a small, albeit significant, piece of a larger puzzle in preparing American students for a knowledge-based, 21st century economy.