Tech leaders call on Gov. Brown to increase K-12 computer education

A group of Silicon Valley tech leaders and school district chiefs has sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, hoping for a sitdown to talk about ways to expand computer science in California’s K-12 schools.

The signers include Twitter Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey, Google Head of Education Research Maggie Johnson, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Oakland Superintendent District Gary Yee, San Francisco Superintendent Richard Carranza and Stanford President John Hennessy.

The letter makes no specific proposals and offers no specific ideas, but calls on Brown to make a “meaningful investment” in increasing access to computer science, especially in urban and rural schools.

“We’re asking for a meeting to talk about it,” one of the signers, Hadi Partovi, co-founder of Code.org, told this newspaper. “Our goal is to signal that this is important.”

Here’s the letter:

May 7, 2014

The Honorable Jerry Brown
Governor of the State of California
State Capitol
Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Brown,

Thank you for working tirelessly to create opportunities for California’s students. We would like to partner with you to help California become a leader in K-12 computer science education.

California is home to the computing revolution that transforms our lives and provides high-paying jobs. But 90 percent of our K-12 schools do not teach computer science. The Conference Board estimates 70,000 open computing jobs in California — roughly 16 jobs for every computer science graduate in the state! Besides the jobs, a basic understanding of this foundational field is relevant in every 21st century career. Lack of access in urban and rural schools also creates inequity for students of color; in the entire state of California, only 74 African Americans and 392 Hispanic Americans took the AP Computer Science exam in 2013. Our shared goal should be that every K-12 student has access to high-quality computer science.

There is unprecedented interest and action this legislative session aimed at expanding computer science in California’s K-12 system. In particular, proposed legislation to allow computer science to count as a high school mathematics credit would increase enrollment in computer science without impacting mathematics1 or burdening schools that don’t teach computer science. But these bills are only first steps. We want your support for a broader statewide effort to increase student access. Real progress will require meaningful investment.

Computer science is wildly popular across all demographics and party lines. In only 4 months, 34 million students have tried the Hour of Code, a campaign that launched on the Google homepage and in every Apple store, accompanied by speeches from President Barack Obama, US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Governor Jeb Bush, and US Senator Cory Booker. Almost 1.5 million people have signed Code.org’s petition asking to expand computer science education. In addition, the LAUSD Board recently instructed the Superintendent to report, within 90 days, how to expand computer science in the district.

Computer science education draws overwhelming support — not only from the tech industry and its leaders, but among regular Americans who want their children to be prepared for the software century.
We would be grateful if you and your staff would consider meeting with a subset of us to discuss how we can work together and make California a computer science trailblazer. We truly appreciate all of your work on behalf of California’s students.

Sincerely,

The undersigned

Business leaders:
Marc Benioff, CEO, salesforce.com
Ron Conway, Founder, SV Angel
John Doerr, Partner, KPCB
Jack Dorsey, Co-founder, Twitter. CEO, Square
Kevin and Julia Hartz, Co-founders, CEO and President, Eventbrite
Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix
Reid Hoffman, Chairman, LinkedIn
Drew Houston, CEO, Dropbox
Maggie Johnson, Head of Education Research, Google
Vinod Khosla, Co-founder, Sun Microsystems. Founder, Khosla Ventures
Bobby Kotick, CEO, Activision
Mark Pincus, Chairman, Zynga
Dan Schulman, Chairman, Symantec
Brad Smith, General Counsel, Microsoft
Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp
Jim Swartz, Founder, Accel Partners
Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn
Education and nonprofits:
Kimberly Bryant, Founder and Executive Director, Black Girls Code
Richard Carranza, Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District
Tara Chklovski, Founder, CEO, Iridescent Learning
Bill Draper, Founder, Draper Richards Foundation
John Hennessy, President, Stanford
Salman Khan, Founder and Executive Director, Khan Academy
Jane Margolis, Senior Researcher, UCLA. Author, Stuck in the Shallow End
Ali and Hadi Partovi, co-founders, Code.org
Paulette Smith, Principal of Joaquin Miller Elementary School, Oakland Unified School District
Louise Waters, Superintendent & CEO, Leadership Public Schools
Gary Yee, Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown poses for photos with young video game designers and their instructors at a 2013 press conference to announce the launch of a two-year, $250,000 video game design program for underserved youth in Oakland and Sacramento. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

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