The computer lab at Cal Poly Pamona. Source: pamona.edu

California is looking to the tech-driven future, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law this week a bill that could be a first step toward having computer sciences classes in every school.

The bill, AB 2329, authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and co-sponsored by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, directs a new advisory panel to develop a long-term strategic implementation plan for computer science education in K-12 and higher ed. A statement from Newsom's office says the bill “aims to ensure that all students will have access to computer science education.”

According to the release, “only a quarter of California's high schools offer any computer science courses, a disparity punctuated by striking gender and racial gaps. Of California’s 3,525 computer science graduates in 2014, only 15 percent were female. In 2015, of the approximately 8,700 high school students in California who took the AP Computer Science exam, just 26 percent were female, 973 were Hispanic, and only 148 were black.”

One of the main complaints with computer science education in secondary school is the lack of a designation by CSU and UC colleges to recognize computer science courses as a “core” mathematics or science course. Currently the university systems only accept those as an elective course.

“In December 2015,” the release said, “Lieutenant Governor Newsom spearheaded a letter signed by dozens of key political, business and nonprofit leaders to the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), the UC committee armed with the ability to reclassify the course.” The letter is currently under consideration at the CSU Academic Senate.

AB 2329 is parallel to President Obama’s "Computer Science for All" initiative, and was supported by dozens of businesses and advocacy organizations, such as TechNet (a co-sponsor of the bill) Microsoft, Facebook, the California Chamber of Commerce, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, LA Area Chamber of Commerce, ACCESS, Code.org, and the superintendents of the Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and San Francisco unified school districts, among many others.

"We applaud the Governor’s leadership in signing AB 2329, which will engage multiple stakeholders to develop a strategic computer science education plan," said Julie Flapan, executive director of ACCESS, in the release, "Ensuring all students, especially underrepresented students in computer science — girls, low-income students and students of color — have access to meaningful and high-quality computer science education in schools across California.”