Mayor Says He's Making Progress on Plan to Have All Students Learn Computer Science

The mayor says he's making progress on his pledge to have all city students learning computer science within the next decade, thanks, in part, to donations from the city's growing tech sector. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

At Middle School 223 in Mott Haven, Mayor Bill de Blasio was befuddled by the work an eighth-grader was doing in a software engineering class. 

"I had to admit, probably a few sentences into it, that she was already above my level and that she would have to slow down," de Blasio said.

The class is part of an $81 million expansion of computer science to all 1,700 public schools unveiled by the mayor last year.  

The city hoped to raise half the money from private sources. Thursday, the mayor announced that charities like the Robin Hood Foundation and companies like AOL and AT&T have pledged $20 million so far. 

"School systems everywhere have been well behind the curve of what's been happening in our society," de Blasio said. "It's time to bring our schools into the 21st century and acknowledge how essential computer science is to the modern world and the modern economy."

The city says employment in local technology grew 57 precent from 2007 to 2014, but most of the new hires are not homegrown. 

"Our employers are starved for talent,"

But Venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who has spearheaded the Computer Science for All effort, says it's not just about preparing the future workforce.  

"Not every one of the students is going to go on to be a software engineer, but every one of these students is going to go on to live in a world where computers are increasingly important in our life, and if you do not know how to tell a machine what to do, you are going to be a second-class citizen," Wilson said.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer criticized the mayor's 10-year time frame for expanding computer science education as too slow. The mayor's response: That's unrealistic. 

"People who don't run things, often have simplistic analysis of the reality," de Blasio said. "The reality is, it takes tremendous effort to prepare something that is going to reach every single one of those children. To train the teachers, to get every school into the program, to make sure the quality is right."

The schools chancellor says 450 teachers have already been trained, but the program will eventually require 5,000 teachers citywide. 

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