Tech Coalition Seeks $250 Million in Federal Funding for Computer Science Education

A Tennessee legislator plans to join with tech companies to advance computer science education and the funding to back it.

by Mike Pare, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. / January 17, 2017 0

(TNS) — U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann will work with Microsoft and other high-profile companies to push national computer science literacy in the schools, and he's eyeing a pilot effort in Chattanooga.

"My hope is that they will adopt a local school, hopefully in a disadvantaged area, to pick that as their pilot school," Fleischmann said. "That would be my request. Whatever they do is fine. I just want it to work."

The Chattanooga Republican plans to join with Microsoft and the Computer Science Education Coalition, a group of businesses and nongovernment organizations that want to expand access to the discipline in K-12 classrooms nationally.

The coalition is urging Congress to provide $250 million for K-12 computer science education this fiscal year to help fill critical U.S. jobs and ensure America remains globally competitive. The federal funds will complement work already undertaken in the states, the coalition said.

In addition to Microsoft, other companies in the broad-based group are Amazon, Apple, Battelle, Google and Verizon.

Microsoft spokeswoman Christina Pearson termed Fleischmann "a champion" for K-12 computer science education.

"Microsoft and the Computer Science Education Coalition are excited to work closely with him to ensure children in Chattanooga and other American cities have opportunities to learn vital computer science skills," she said.

The Microsoft spokeswoman said she didn't have details on how the literacy program would work, but more specifics are slated to come out in the future.

Fleischmann said he'd like to work with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and educators here and ask them to build out a local effort.

"I'd hope it would be a school in Hamilton County," he said.

Fleischmann said he met with Microsoft officials "at the highest level" and they wanted him to lead nationally in the initiative.

The 3rd District congressman said he thinks one reason he was picked is because of his efforts to advance broadband internet service in rural areas.

"I was one of four House Republicans who supported the advancement of broadband in rural areas. That's another example of when I represent my district over the party when I think it's beneficial," he said.

Clare Flannery, a spokeswoman for the coalition, said the 2017 budget process is ongoing, as the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution.

She said the coalition "remains dedicated to securing the federal funding for K-12 computer science education this fiscal year and will push Congress to prioritize this critical subject in the coming years."

The coalition said more than 500,000 computing jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and fewer than 43,000 computer science students graduated from American universities into the workforce last year.

Between 2016 and 2020, the U.S. projects 960,000 job openings and, if current graduation patterns continue, only 344,000 graduates to fill them, the group said.

The coalition said an initial infusion of $250 million in federal funds could support as many as 52,500 classrooms, which has the potential to reach 3.6 million students across the U.S. in the coming year.

©2017 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.