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[Updated 10:45am to reflect additional signatories]

In a strongly worded appeal, five dozen business and education leaders — including those from Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks — are urging Washington lawmakers to approve a bill that would expand computer science education in schools across the state.

The letter, sent by Code.org and Washington STEM today to leadership in the state House of Representatives, calls on legislators to support passing and funding House Bill 1813, which establishes a grant program with a private match requirement to both train educators in, and teach students about, computer science, as well as to fund equipment. The bill has already cleared the House committees on education and appropriations.

Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi at the 2013 GeekWire Summit
Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi at the 2013 GeekWire Summit

“There are currently 20,000 open computing jobs across all industries in Washington, and these jobs are growing at three times the state average,” the letter reads, noting only 1,200 state students graduated with computer science degrees in 2014. “We compare that to 20,000 open jobs and wonder: why is this course only offered in 7 percent of our high schools?”

The letter points out that computer science jobs aren’t just limited to tech companies and that, “computer science is foundational for all students. Every student learns about photosynthesis and electricity, without pursuing careers as botanists or electricians. For today’s students, it’s equally relevant to know what an algorithm is or how the Internet works.”

The 60 signers of the open letter include Steve Ballmer, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, Amazon Senior Vice President Jeff Wilke, Starbucks President Kevin Johnson, Moz CEO Sarah Bird, Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh, University of Washington Provost Ana Mari Cauce, Washington Education Association President Kim Mead, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, and Washington STEM CEO Patrick D’Amelio.

Code.org’s Partovi also is asking students, parents and other business and education leaders to lend their support to the letter on Code.org’s website. “The bill requires funding to train teachers for every school that doesn’t teach computer science,” Partovi tells GeekWire. “But it’s the best investment I can think of for our state’s future.”

HB 1813 is one of two dueling bills before the Washington State legislature on computer science. The second, HB 1445, proposes using computer science courses to satisfy world language requirements. That measure has not been supported by Code.org, in part because computer science already satisfies math or science graduation requirements as the result of a previous legislative push.

Here’s the entire text of the letter:

Letter to Representative Ross Hunter and Senator Andy Hill in support of HB 1813

Dear Chairpersons Hunter and Hill,

Thank you for your leadership on the important issue of computer science education in Washington.

We the undersigned business executives, educators and nonprofit leaders enthusiastically support passing and funding House Bill 1813 to expand access to computer science in Washington’s K12 public schools.

It was in Washington that Microsoft led the world in establishing a market for personal computers, and our state is now home to dozens of public tech companies — from Amazon to Zulily — and countless startups. Washington is the first state where Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and Salesforce expand to grow their engineering workforce, bringing jobs to our region.

In 36 states, the most common jobs are truck drivers, farmers or secretaries. In Washington, the most common jobs are software developers. These jobs aren’t only in tech — in fact two-thirds
of the nation’s computing jobs are in other industries, at places like Starbucks, Boeing, Nordstrom, Costco or WSDOT.

But we’re not doing enough to prepare our students for these opportunities. There are currently 20,000 open computing jobs across all industries in Washington, and these jobs are growing at three times the state average. In 2014, there were only 1,200 computer science graduates at the university level, and among high school AP Computer Science test takers, only 260 were female. Only 48 were black or Hispanic. We compare that to 20,000 open jobs and wonder: why is this course only offered in 7 percent of our high schools?

Besides the jobs, computer science is foundational for all students. Every student learns about photosynthesis and electricity, without pursuing careers as botanists or electricians. For today’s students, it’s equally relevant to know what an algorithm is or how the Internet works.

House Bill 1813 offers a comprehensive solution: it establishes education standards for computer science and matches private funding to train teachers, who are critical to expanding access to this field — and prioritizes investments to reach underrepresented students first. Nine out of ten Washington voters support these proposals. We encourage you to commit $1 million per year to support the computer science education grant program. The 1:1 private match requirement means your investment would be doubled, enabling every Washington school to teach computer science by 2025.

Many of the undersigned have donated significant funds to support computer science education. Matched with your commitment, let’s give a united answer to the parent who asks, “Why doesn’t my child’s school teach computer science?”

Signed,

Business Leaders

Steve Ballmer
Brad Smith, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Microsoft
Jeff Wilke, Senior Vice President of Consumer Business, Amazon
Kevin Johnson, President, Starbucks
Leroy Hood, President, Institute for Systems Biology
Maud Daudon, President and CEO, Seattle Chamber of Commerce
Maggie Johnson, Director of Education and University Relations, Google
Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Expedia
Rich Barton, Chairman, Zillow
Nick Hanauer, Partner, Second Avenue Partners
Rob Glaser, CEO, RealNetworks
Christian Chabot, CEO, Tableau
Steve Mullin, CEO, Washington Roundtable
Elizabeth Tinkham, Senior Managing Director, Accenture
Paul Carduner, Seattle Site Lead, Facebook
Darrell Cavens, CEO, Zulily
Steve Singh, CEO, Concur
Gregg Gottesman, Managing Director, Madrona Ventures
Brad Silverberg, Founding Partner, Ignition Partners
Sunny Gupta, CEO, Apptio
Glenn Kelman, CEO, Redfin
Ben Huh, CEO, Cheezburger
Eric Anderson, CEO, Planetary Resources, Inc
John Vechey, Founder, Popcap Games
Paul Thelen, CEO, Big Fish Games
Sarah Bird, CEO, Moz
Scott Keeney, CEO, nLIGHT
Steve Stevens, President and CEO, Greater Spokane Incorporated
Susannah Malarkey, CEO, Technology Alliance
Michael Schutzler, CEO, WA Technology Industry Association
Dean Allen, CEO, McKinstry
Bill Lewis, Chairman, Lease Crutcher Lewis
David McFadden, President, Yakima County Development Association
Timothy Engle, President, Saltchuk
Sandra Towne, Vancouver/Camas Innovation Partnership Zone
Michael Kluse

Education and Nonprofit Leaders

Kim Mead, President, Washington Education Association
Ana Mari Cauce, Provost, Executive Vice President, and Interim
President, University of Washington
Elson Floyd, President, Washington State University
Susan Enfield, Superintendent, Highline School District
Shelley Redinger, Superintendent, Spokane Public Schools
Gary Cohn, Superintendent, Everett Public Schools
Hadi Partovi, Co-founder and CEO, Code.org
Patrick D’Amelio, CEO, Washington STEM
Christine Johnson, Chancellor, Spokane Community Colleges
Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters
Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington
Dave Powell, Executive Director, Stand for Children Washington
Tayloe Washburn, CEO and Dean, Northeastern – Seattle Campus
James Dorsey, Executive Director, Washington MESA
Pam Lund, CEO, Girl Scouts of Eastern WA and Northern Idaho
John Welch, Superintendent, Puget Sound Education Service District
Nasue Nishida, Executive Director, Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession
Gene Sementi, Superintendent, West Valley School District
Michael Dunn, Superintendent, NorthEast Education Service District 101
Richard McBride, Superintendent, North Central Education Service District
Jeff Charbonneau, 2013 US National Teacher of the Year, 2015 Global Teacher Prize Finalist
Auillani de la Cruz, 2014-15 WA MESA Teacher of the Year
Steve Myers, Superintendent, Educational Service District 105

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