Skyline High helps launch Obama tech plan

The nation’s chief technology officer came to Skyline High School in Oakland Monday to help launch a new initiative by President Obama to promote computer science education for all students, regardless of their race, gender or income.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith told students at a computer lab class at Skyline that getting an education in the field provides “a great economic opportunity” because there currently are 600,000 jobs available in the technology field and they pay 50 percent more than the average salary.

Smith also said students can put computer science learning to use by “using technology for all the things you guys are passionate about solving,” such as social justice issues.

Joining Smith at Skyline, where she was a student and a cheerleader, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said:

“The President picked Skyline to launch a national initiative because he knew this city would unleash the amazing talents and innovations you all have.”

Schaaf said the city of Oakland intends to become a national model for computer science education.

The mayor said all students should have access to computer science education and tech jobs, saying, “We aren’t including the diverse minds of the people of Oakland.” Schaaf said better access to such an education will “undo some of the wrongs of the past and build the pipeline of opportunity.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said President Obama is seeking $4 billion in funding for his “Computer Science for All” initiative in the budget that he is announcing on Tuesday and that as a member of the House Committee on Appropriations she will try to help him secure the money.

Lee told the Skyline students that by getting an education in computer science:

“You have the skills and knowledge to move forward and be future leaders of the country. … This is the first and we hope it will be the best in the country.”

Lee added:

 “I am proud that Ms. Smith chose Oakland as the first city to visit following the White House’s bold announcement of the computer science for all initiative.”

In announcing the initiative recently, President Obama said he is calling for $4 billion from the federal budget to go to states and $100 million to schools to ensure that teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade have access to computer science training and materials.

The President said it’s estimated that only one quarter of all the K-12 schools in the U.S. offer computer science classes with programming and coding and only 28 states allow such courses to count towards high school graduation even though other advanced economies make the courses available for all of their students.

President Obama said the idea is to expand access to rigorous classes in science, technology, engineering and math and ensure all students have the chance to participate, including girls and underrepresented minorities.