Prioritize computer training

Some people might consider the recommendation too obvious to devote an editorial, but in this state one can never be certain about an outcome.

Therefore, it must be said that the Pennsylvania State Board of Education should launch a concerted push on behalf of making computer science education available to all students in the commonwealth.

Actually, such an effort already should be far along toward meeting the 100 percent objective, but unfortunately isn’t.

Although state finances are tight, state leaders should nonetheless strive to find a way to make some funding available to achieve the objective.

At a meeting of the state Board of Education earlier this month, the state Department of Education, on behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf, focused on the importance of making computer science education available to every student.

A statement from the governor said that “over the next decade, seven in 10 new jobs in Pennsylvania will require workers to use computers and new technologies in a constantly changing economy.”

The statement went on to say that “we must begin to prepare students now” by establishing standards for computer science education so that students have the skills necessary for emerging high-demand jobs requiring those skills.

Wolf said he has asked the Department of Education to work closely with the Board of Education to adopt Computer Science for All standards and pledged to work with the Legislature to codify computer science standards into law.

A Nov. 15 press release pointed out that because of legislation signed by the governor, this state already allows computer science classes to count toward graduation.

Pennsylvania is one of 24 states with the policy.

The main impediment to realizing what the governor envisions is money, and Wolf should work with the Legislature to find financial help for school districts.

Local-level school boards often complain about state or federal mandates without money attached. This is a goal worthy of financial assistance, although some schools have for some time been doing what the effort being promoted aims to accomplish.

It was reported that a total of 18,332 Pennsylvania students took a computer science class in high school last year.

In his statement, Wolf said the proposed emphasis on computer science “would build on our efforts to make Pennsylvania a national leader in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Pennsylvania now ranks fourth in the nation for the number of STEM graduates and is in the top 10 of states for STEM jobs, but there is more work to do.”

With many teachers already qualified to teach such courses, the main roadblocks apparently are formal codification of the course standards and — again — money.

Both roadblocks are surmountable, even in a state where outcomes seldom are a certainty — where obvious decisions and actions many times aren’t so obvious after all.

This course offered statewide should be allowed to be an exception.