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Comp-Sci Graduation Mandate Proposed in California

Legislation requiring computer science instruction in California was referred to an Assembly committee last week. At a time when tens of thousands of computing jobs are available, most schools in the state don’t offer a single computer science course.

Two students working on a laptop in a classroom.
Computer science would become a high school graduation requirement in California seven years from now under a new Assembly bill endorsed by the state superintendent of public instruction.

The legislation, AB 2097, requires every public high school to begin offering at least one computer science course by the fall of 2027. The completed credit would be required for graduation by the 2030-2031 academic year, according to a Feb. 6 news release. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, was referred to the Assembly Committee on Education Feb. 20.

“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,” Berman said in the release, citing a long list of fields that require computer science skills.

“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,” Berman added. The lawmaker also said the bill will increase the state’s competitiveness nationally and internationally, and will help advance equity goals.

According to the bill, 55 percent of high schools in California do not offer computer science instruction, and districts that primarily serve low-income students are three times less likely to offer core computer science courses. Moreover, California is behind 40 other states based on the percentages of high schools that offer computer science courses, while 27 states already mandate that instruction.

Eight states — Arkansas, Tennessee, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Nebraska, North Carolina and South Carolina — mandate computer science for high school graduation, according to a report from published in November 2023.

There were 45,245 available computer science-related jobs in California as of January 2023 that paid an average of $153,544 annually, yet in 2020 there were only 9,339 computer science graduates in the Golden State, according to the news release.

According to the bill, California lawmakers first proposed school computer science standards in 2014. Even though California is considered “the undisputed cradle of innovation,” officials said, the state has allowed an equity gap to grow by not offering computer science instruction to students of all backgrounds.

“It is necessary that we equip our young people with the essential skills needed to thrive in the careers of today and tomorrow,” Tony Thurmond, California superintendent of public instruction, said in a public statement. “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.”