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Gov. Inslee signs into law Rep. Hansen's bill promoting computer science in schools

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen that will let school districts give a math or science credit to high school students who enroll in an AP Computer Science class.

The goal is to encourage more students to take computer science classes, which officials said will not only help reduce the job skills gap, but also provide more opportunities for students to gain real-world experience and knowledge in a cutting-edge industry.

Inslee signed Hansen's bill at a ceremony at Rainier Beach High School, with  a group of students, teachers, education leaders and top high-tech executives at the governor's side.

“We have some of the most innovative IT and computer businesses in the world right in our backyard, but too many of the jobs they’re hiring for are going to students and workers from other state and other countries,” Inslee said.

“If we can encourage more of our students to try their hand at computer science in high school, we can open their world to so many amazing careers.”

Hansen, a 23rd District Democrat from Bainbridge Island, said the new law will help both students and high-tech employers.

“This bill will help students train for high-paying jobs in the technology industry and start addressing our state’s computer programmer shortage,” Hansen said.

“This new law represents an important step forward for our kids and for the technology competitiveness of Washington state,” added Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president of Legal and Corporate Affairs. “By counting computer science classes toward high school distribution requirements, we’ll better help our own kids master the skills that will be vital to fill the jobs of tomorrow.”

Washington currently ranks fourth in the nation in the number of technology-based corporations, but 46th for participation in science and engineering graduate programs. Washington STEM recently reported there are 25,000 unfilled jobs in Washington as a result of the job skills gap, 80 percent of which are in high-skill STEM and health care roles.

The bill will make Washington the 10th state to allow computer science to be integrated as part of the math and science curriculum in high schools.

Hadi Partovi, co-founder of code.org, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to growing computer programming education, said he was encouraged to see momentum for the industry growing.

"Code.org's short video starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg drew 20 million views and 650,000 signatures behind the idea that more students should learn to code,” Partovi said.

“It's fantastic to see Washington count computer science in the core math and science curriculum. Let's get the rest of the country to follow Washington's lead," he said.

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