Moving towards sustainability of computer science in schools

Five years ago, almost all US schools lacked computer science offerings. And, when they offered CS, it was usually treated as an elective or afterschool option — taught by a dedicated teacher working on their own. Students could not get graduation credit for these courses and the teacher had no resources or funding for their own professional development in CS.

While many schools and states still face these challenges, we are encouraged to see the CS landscape changing at an unprecedented rate, thanks to our partners in the Code.org Advocacy Coalition, local champions, and like-minded organizations. Numerous states now require that every school offer CS courses, with new federal and state funding streams for K-12 CS. In just the past 12 months, 33 states have advanced policies supporting computer science.

In the long run, schools will treat computer science just like math, ELA, or biology. And in many regions of the U.S., the future is here, today.

In core academic subjects, schools financially support their teachers in professional learning, and CS should be no different. The question isn’t IF the costs of professional learning programs for CS should eventually be paid by local government, it’s WHEN and HOW. In fact, in 2017, 40% of principals who sent teachers to Code.org workshops said that they would have been willing to help cover the costs of these workshops using existing school budgets.

The costs of the Code.org program

The Code.org professional learning program for grades 6–12 has cost Code.org and our partners many thousands of dollars per teacher in the program. Last year, a couple of our partners charged fees to cover their local costs, but most workshops were offered at no cost to the school, thanks to our Regional Partners and the incredible generosity of Code.org donors such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. In total, 80,000 K-12 teachers have attended Code.org workshops without paying a fee of any sort, thanks to Code.org’s donors who have spent tens of millions of dollars to support America’s teachers in this movement.

A gradual shift in funding for computer science professional learning

While Code.org will continue to subsidize the costs of this program, we’re also taking steps to help our Regional Partners find alternative means to cover their costs for food, venue, facilitator salaries, etc.

In many regions, our Regional Partners will charge schools a fee to partially cover these costs. By helping cover the costs of the PD, schools and districts can support their teachers and contribute to creating a financially sustainable CS program in their regions. We know school budgets are under stress, and our partners and teachers deeply appreciate the commitment from principals and administrators to support their CS teachers with their limited funds.

To help schools through this transition, Code.org donors and Regional Partners will continue to subsidize the cost of the Professional Learning Program. We will also provide scholarships focused on high needs schools, reaching diverse student populations, and supporting CS in regions where the program is new.

We see this as the first step in a gradual transition to shift the funding responsibility for computer science to be sustained locally. The exact details will vary by region.

Fees in some regions to partially offset costs of the program in grades 6–12

Many Code.org partners will set a fee based on their local costs, ranging from $0 to roughly $2,000 per teacher. Code.org will not receive a portion of these fees. In fact, for now, Code.org will continue subsidizing many costs of the program, whose unsubsidized value is $3,000 per teacher.

In many regions, the Code.org subsidy and scholarships will enable all teachers to continue attending at no cost (for now). In other regions, Code.org partners have state grants or other funding available to continue to offer the program at no cost to all participating schools.

As applications open in each region, we’ll have more details on the local fees and scholarships available. Want to get notified when applications open? Provide your contact information to a Code.org Regional Partner.

Scholarships for high-needs schools, diverse populations, new regions, and grades K-5

Code.org, our Regional Partners, and our Facilitators all care deeply about reaching high-needs schools and diverse student populations. Often the schools that need our help the most are the least able to pay a fee for workshop attendance. Code.org will subsidize scholarships for our Regional Partners to distribute to teachers from these schools. Partners in our newest regions will be able to offer scholarships to almost every qualified teacher, to kickstart the program in their area.

For now, our partners will continue to offer workshops for elementary school teachers at no cost to participating schools and teachers.

These scholarships and subsidies will vary by region. Over time, as CS becomes more and more ingrained in the school system, and more fully sustained by traditional funding streams, we will gradually reduce the portion that is subsidized by Code.org.

The Code.org online curriculum will always be free.

This transition is necessary to offset our partners’ growing costs for food, venue, facilitator pay, teacher support, etc., and to make sure that these programs can self-sustain in the long run.

Meanwhile, Code.org stands by our commitment to support high quality free curriculum for all students. All curriculum resources and tutorials we author will forever be free to use and openly licensed under a Creative Commons license, even allowing others to make derivative education resources for non-commercial purposes. All of Code.org’s platforms have been engineered under an open source license, to ensure that they will remain free.

Hadi Partovi, Code.org