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Gov. calls for computer science education boost in Utah

Gov. Gary Herbert, right, poses for photos after the announcement of more than $10 million earmarked for computer science education in his budget. Photo: Mary Richards

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s governor called for $10.2 million in his new budget to boost computer science education in every single classroom in the state.

Computer science education in every classroom, every grade

That money in Gov. Gary Herbert’s budget would apply toward all grades, from kindergarten through 12th, Herbert said.

“[It gives] our students the opportunity to excel in the marketplace, by giving them the skills to compete in what is a global marketplace,” Herbert said.

Budget backed by business buy-in

With him at the announcement was the CEO of Plural-Sight, Aaron Skonnard, who said there students do not have an equal opportunity in Utah public schools when it comes to computer sciences.

“Only about 40 percent of our schools have any form of computer science class, in an age where the digital economy is demanding it from everyone. Computer Science has become a form of literacy,” Skonnard said.

Skonnard announced another $4 million trust fund from Silicon Slopes corporate donors and families. He expected that financial commitment to grow.

Student support on board

West High School sophomore Fikir Teklemedhin said every student needs access to computer science education.

“Computers are all around us,” Teklemedhin said. “Not giving kids the skills to understand them, is like failing to teach them a language the rest of the world fluently speaks.”

Failing to give students access to digital literacy, Teklemedhin said, would be like depriving them of any core course, such as math or language arts.

“Without understanding tech, our posterity can only float by, ever gaining full advantage of the incredible opportunities around them. They will not thrive in this increasingly digital world, only because we failed to give them the tools to succeed,” Teklemedhin added.

Herbert was impressed, calling Teklemedhin “an inspiration.”

The governor also proclaimed this week “Computer Science Education Week” in Utah.