SALT LAKE CITY — A $5 million gauntlet dropped by Utah tech leaders earlier this year on Utah lawmakers to boost computer science offerings in Utah schools — or leave the money on the table — earned at least a partial riposte on Wednesday.
The original fiscal request for HB227, a bill that would create a new K-12 grant program to boost computer science curriculum in Utah schools, was $10 million in ongoing funding, but that number has been marching steadily downward throughout the session amid ongoing state budget squabbles. A final funding package of $3.15 million in one-time money was approved by both the Senate and House on Wednesday and the bill is headed for the governor's desk.
The bill outlines a K-12 initiative among government, industry and education partners to develop a statewide master plan for computer science. It will give schools an opportunity to apply for grants with the goal of implementing computer science by 2022. The money can be used for staff development, purchase of curriculum materials and other program support.Comment on this story
At the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in January, Pluralsight co-founder and CEO Aaron Skonnard and four other Utah tech company founders announced they would each personally contribute up to $1 million to match whatever legislators put up to build computer science curriculum in Utah public schools in the 2019 session. Skonnard was joined in the funding pledge by four other founders/leaders of well-established Utah tech companies: InsideSales CEO Dave Elkington, DOMO CEO Josh James, Vivint SmartHome CEO Todd Pedersen and Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith.
Skonnard has previously noted that "computer science is now a foundational literacy that is critical to preparing Utah students to succeed in our technology-driven world."
Right now, computer science courses are unavailable in almost half of all Utah middle and high schools and virtually nonexistent in elementary schools, according to bill sponsor Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman.