A new bill introduced in the California state legislature would require that all public high schools in California offer at least one computer science education course and would establish computer science as a high school graduation requirement by the 2030–31 school year.

The legislation was introduced by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Assemblymember Marc Berman.

“I am proud to co-sponsor this bill to make computer science a high school graduation requirement in the state of California,” said Superintendent Thurmond.

“It is necessary that we equip our young people with the essential skills needed to thrive in the careers of today and tomorrow,” he said. “Our state has long been the home of some of the greatest technology founders and innovators, and all of our students should be empowered to contribute to and benefit from that success. Computer science is foundational and imperative for all of our students to become productive, responsible digital citizens in a global society.”

In a press release, the bill’s cosponsors noted that fifty-five percent of high schools in California do not offer a single course in computer science, and only five percent of the nearly two million high school students in California are enrolled in a computer science course.

“It is critical to equip our students with the skills they need to enter the twenty-first century workforce and succeed in our digitally driven world,” said Assemblymember Berman. “Computer science skills are needed in many career fields, from science and technology to agriculture, entertainment, fashion, banking, marketing, and beyond. We owe it to our students to teach them the fundamental skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s economy – and that starts with having access to a computer science education.

The cosponsors also highlighted a lack of computer science courses disproportionally impacts low-income students, students of color, and women. According to the cosponsors, schools serving low-income communities are three times less likely to offer core computer science courses – and over two times less likely to offer Advanced Placement courses – than schools serving high-income communities.

The press release also noted that only 34 percent of schools serving high proportions of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Pacific Islander pupils offer computer science courses, compared to 52 percent of schools serving a greater proportion of White and Asian pupils. Additionally, while female students comprise 49 percent of the high school population, just 30 percent of pupils taking computer science courses are female.

“Even in Silicon Valley, too many students who grow up in the shadows of global tech companies are not gaining the skills they need to one day work at those companies,” said Assemblymember Berman. “Not only will AB 2097 help provide the workforce needed for California to remain competitive with other states and other nations, but it is also crucial in closing the existing gender and diversity gaps. If we truly value equity in our schools, we need to ensure all students have access to computer science education.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs