Washington State Legislature Considers Bill to Improve Training of Computer Science Workers

The House Higher Education Committee recently heard Northeastern University – Seattle Dean and CEO Tayloe Washburn and Chairman and Wissner-Slivka Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, Hank Levy, talk about the urgent needs for Washington State to ramp up its investment in K-12 and higher education computer science programs.  At present, the workforce needs of the technology companies in Washington far outstrip the ability of all Washington State educational institutions to provide qualified workers. The state’s ability to grow jobs and keep the companies presently in Washington is at risk, making this an essential public policy priority to take action to narrow this technology talent gap.  

Rep. Drew Hansen of Kitsap County is a member of the committee who heard Washburn and Levy speak.  Rep. Hansen’s bill (HB 1472) takes a step in remedying this major policy challenge for the state. HB 1472 would require school boards to approve AP Computer Science as equivalent to high school science as well as math, and to denote on a student’s transcript that it qualifies as a math-based quantitative course for students who take it in their senior year.  It would also create a competitive Grant Fund made up of two parts: one part to support professionals co-teaching computer science, and one part to support upgrades in technology, curriculum, and teacher knowledge and skills in computer science. Finally, it would put in place a State Computer Science Professional Shortage Task Force to examine strategic opportunities for public and private investment in increasing computer science education, including employer co-investment.   The purpose of the task force is to develop a strategic plan with specific short and longer-term strategies to increase the number of graduates from high schools, community and technical colleges, and four-year colleges and universities who are prepared to enter the workforce or continue their education in computer science.

Both Dean Washburn and the members of the Washington State Technology Industry Association are actively involved in suggesting refinements to this legislation and moving the bill forward.  If you have any questions, ideas or want to be involved, please contact Dean Washburn at: t.washburn@northeastern.edu.  A link to the proposed Substitute HB 1472 is here.  You can contact Rep. Hansen directly at:  drew.hansen@leg.wa.gov.

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