Cantwell, Cassidy Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Boost High School Coding Programs

High School CODES Act creates grant program for schools that allow coding classes to fulfill graduation requirement

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Coding Opportunities and Development for Equitable Students Act – or the High School CODES Act – to help high schools throughout the country establish or expand coding education programs by creating a new grant program within the National Activities Fund at the U.S. Department of Education. These competitive grants would be available to local educational agencies to advance the computer science and coding skills that are critical to the jobs of the future, as well as the national security and economic competitiveness of the United States.

The grants outlined in this legislation would be available to local educational agencies with programs that allow high school students to take a coding class in place of a mathematics, science, or foreign language class in order to fulfill a graduation requirement.

“Today’s students should be exposed to the computer skills of the 21st Century,” said Senator Cantwell. “In Washington state and across the nation, our tech industry is booming and creating new jobs every day, but our curriculum is not keeping up. By ensuring high school students can access computer science and coding education, we can close the skills gap and boost our country’s competitive position globally.”

“This legislation seeks to give students the tools they need, not only for their own future, but for the future of our economy,” said Dr. Cassidy.

In Washington state, only 1,212 students graduated from college with computer science degrees in 2015, leaving more than 16,200 computing jobs unfilled today. By reducing the costs of establishing computer science curriculums, the main barrier to entry for high schools to provide quality coding classes, the High School CODES Act will help prepare the next generation of computer scientists to meet the demands of the high tech workforce.

“Computer science is an industry that will continue to grow, and our students must have the skills necessary to meet the demands of and be competitive in the modern workforce,” said Chris Reykdal, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “I applaud Senator Cantwell for her work aligning graduation requirements with the demands of our workforce.”

Learning to write and read code is critical to creating and innovating in cyberspace. In high schools, fewer AP exams are taken in computer science than any other STEM subject area. While 58% of new STEM jobs are in computing, only 8% of STEM graduates are in computer science.

"As EagleView continues to build innovative software platforms and machine learning applications to extract data from aerial images, we are challenged to hire enough computer scientists. Exposing students to coding in high school democratizes the software industry by creating a diverse and deep pool of candidates. We are therefore squarely behind Senator Cantwell’s legislative efforts to promote coding classes in our high schools,” said Shay Strong, Ph.D., Director of Machine Learning & Data Science at EagleView, a Bothell-based tech company.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Direct the U.S. Secretary of Education to create a five-year demonstration program within the National Activities Fund that offers grants to local educational agencies;
  • Prioritize grant applications from rural or underserved areas;
  • Require all grant applications to report information and statistics about their program’s findings, successes, and failures to the Department of Education; and
  • Ensure that each application provides a spending plan, description of goals, and a strategy to become a self-sustaining program.

The full text of the legislation is available HERE.