Cantwell Legislation to Increase High School Computer Coding Programs Signed into Law

Bipartisan provision expands grant program, incentivizes states that include coding curriculum in high schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, bipartisan legislation championed by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) was signed into law as part of the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, one of the most significant pieces of education legislation passed by this Congress. Cantwell’s provision will help high schools throughout the country establish or expand computer coding education programs by expanding the use of federal funds to support coding programs. It also supports statewide efforts to create access to and implementation of coding and computer science.

Shortly after the bill became law, Cantwell commended its success on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

“In Washington, more than 13,000 internet companies provide more than a quarter of a million jobs, and we want to keep this American success story going,” said Senator Cantwell. “But to do that, we need to make sure that these start-ups have the workforce of tomorrow that they need, and that's why it's so important for children throughout the United States to be able to learn to code in school.”

The grant money expanded by Cantwell’s provision will be available 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. They have the ability to incentivize states 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.

“This is a great example of what we can do when working together in a bipartisan manner,” Cantwell said. “It is the first of an important step to make sure that every student understands some level of what our economy is going to be built on in the future.”

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, this bipartisan provision will help prepare the next generation of computer scientists to meet the demands of the high tech workforce.

“I am thrilled at the passage of the Perkins Act reauthorization,” said Chris Reykdal, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “With a state economy demanding more workers skilled in the trades, we must continue to expand our investments in career and technical education in K–12, including computer science education. I applaud Senator Cantwell for her forward thinking leadership to boost coding education across Washington state.”

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 percent of new STEM jobs are in computing, only eight percent 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 excited to hear that Senator Cantwell’s legislative efforts to promote coding classes in our high schools has been a success,” said Shay Strong, Ph.D., Director of Machine Learning & Data Science at EagleView.

“Code.org was founded five years ago on a big dream and a clear vision?—?one where every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science. This opportunity gives students a chance to start on a pathway toward the highest-paying tech jobs; and because technology will impact every sector, computer science is foundational for any 21st-century career,” said Cameron Wilson, COO of Code.org. “The enactment of the bipartisan Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act, which includes a proposal from Washington’s own Senator Maria Cantwell that encourages school districts to expand access to computer science, will support the momentum and growth of collective efforts of Code.org and the computer science education community.”

Specifically, Senator Cantwell’s provision in the new law:

  • Expands the use of federal dollars to efforts that develop and implement programs designed to increase opportunities for students to take rigorous courses in coding or computer science; and
  • Supports statewide efforts to increase access and implementation of coding and computer science courses in order to meet the needs of local labor markets.

TV-quality video of senator’s floor speech is available HERE, video from YouTube is available HERE, and audio is available HERE.

A full transcript of the floor speech is available HERE.