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coderdojo6When it comes to legislation encouraging the teaching of computer science in Washington State schools, Code.org’s advice might be: Choose wisely.

Two bills are currently vying for attention in the state House of Representatives: HB 1813, which expands computer science education through a grant program, and HB 1445, which proposes using computer science courses to satisfy college world language requirements.

For a public hearing in Olympia, WA on HB 1445 this week, bill co-sponsor Chris Reykdal of Tumwater told KPLU radio, “My God, we are spending 100 million (dollars) of taxpayer money every year in our high school system to teach world languages where more than half our folks a few years later will never use it again.” That contention was countered at Wednesday’s hearing by those in higher education, saying world languages make for well-rounded, culturally competent citizens.

Yet it’s the second bill, HB 1813, that has drawn the support of Seattle-based Code.org co-founder and CEO Hadi Partovi. “The bill proposed by (Representative) Drew Hansen provides a comprehensive package to help schools add computer science to the curriculum,” Partovi says.

Hadi Partovi
Hadi Partovi

The problem in Washington, he adds, “isn’t that computer science doesn’t satisfy graduation requirements. That was a problem in 2013, and we solved that by allowing (computer science) to count as math or science. The problem today is that computer science isn’t even being taught in the majority of schools.”

He says Hansen’s bill addresses that issue. “The bill to categorize it as a foreign language doesn’t in any way help, and actually hurts because it creates new problems when it comes to teacher certification and college admissions,” he says, suggesting, “Do you want a foreign language certified teacher teaching computer science to your kids?”

The non-profit Code.org has dealt with similar matters in the past. Almost exactly a year ago it argued on its blog that, “Computer science is not a foreign language.”

HB 1813, Hansen’s bill, is scheduled for its first hearing next week.

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