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Washington State invests in Computer Science education!

Olympia1

All-in-all, the Washington State legislature’s session that draws to a close this week (after its second overtime period – thank god they didn’t have to resort to penalty kicks) was a great one for Computer Science!

With extraordinary leadership from Reps. Drew Hansen and Chad Magendanz, and with strong backing from Code.org, Microsoft, the Washington Tech Industry Association, and many others, the Washington State Legislature passed HB 1813, establishing standards for learning and teaching computer science in K-12.

In the operating budget, Drew and Chad’s work and the backing of a strong coalition paid off once again, supported by Rep. Ross Hunter (Appropriations) and Sen. Andy Hill (Ways & Means), with funding for K-12 teacher preparation, expansion of AP Computer Science courses, a new computer science program at Bellevue College, a data analytics program at Washington State University’s Everett campus, a 4-year cybersecurity degree at Western Washington University’s Olympic Peninsula campus, and a significant expansion of UW Computer Science & Engineering. (Drew and Chad have a plan to increase UW CSE’s annual degree production to 600 from last year’s 300; 3/8ths of their goal was achieved in this session, with more hopefully to come in future biennia.) This is huge.

Here’s the bad news: Unfortunately and inexplicably, despite broad support and despite tireless efforts by Microsoft, WTIA and UW, funding for UW CSE’s building – essential to accommodating program growth – went off the tracks in the end-game of the session. UW had requested $40M from the state for what is anticipated to be a $110M project, with the rest to be raised privately. (Microsoft kicked off the private fundraising campaign in fine style several weeks ago – as they had done for our current building – with a $10M commitment.) The Governor supported this request. The House, in its preliminary budget, provided $6M. The Senate, in its preliminary budget, provided $32.5M. It appeared that we were on track to receive $32.5M in the final budget. In fact, it even appears that way in the budget document. But in the fine print, the Legislature provided $17.5M in funding, and directed UW to provide an additional $15M from something called the UW Building Fund – local funds derived largely from a “facilities” portion of student tuition and intended for essential maintenance of existing facilities, not for capital projects.

Tough to figger. UW CSE prepares Washington’s students for jobs at Washington’s leading-edge companies at a level that vastly exceeds that of any other program. Both student demand and employer demand are exploding. Washington’s students, and Washington’s leading-edge companies, badly need an expanded program. The overall capital budget was $2.2B, and the higher education portion was $540M, but somehow our project didn’t make the cut. Back to the drawing board – hopefully this can be redressed in the supplemental session.

Code.org has a nice post on the overall outcome of the session, here.

Thanks to all who continue to support increased investment in Computer Science education in Washington!

July 2, 2015