K12 Computer Science Education In NY State

While NYC is committed, and well on its way, to getting computer science teachers in every school in NYC by 2025, the situation across New York State is bleaker.

Many schools in New York State do not have computer science teachers and do not offer computer science courses to their students.

Governor Cuomo recognized this shortfall in his 2019 budget by proposing $6mm of funding for computer science education across New York State.

But neither the NYS Assembly nor the NYS Senate has followed through and included this $6mm (or a single dollar) in their proposed 2019 budgets for CS education.

The budget process is scheduled to close on April 1st, so this week is the week to get movement on this.

If you live in New York State, please reach out to your Assemblyperson and/or Senator and tell them how important computer science education is to you and why you want them to follow the Governor’s leadership on this issue and put $6mm in the 2019 budget for Computer Science education in New York State schools. If you don’t know how to reach your representatives in Albany, click on the two links in the opening paragraph in this post.

To put that $6mm in context, New York City is spending $8mm a year on training existing teachers (math, science, etc) to teach computer science. And they are doing this every year for ten years in order to get over 5,000 CS teachers in their ~1,700 public schools.

Surely New York State can do the same. Every kid needs the opportunity to learn new ways of learning, making, and earning. Computer Science is the first new subject that has been added to most public schools’ curriculum in the past fifty years. Most states and large urban centers have already committed themselves to this effort. But not New York State. It’s time that changed.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. Susan Rubinsky

    If you think about the bleak economy and job prospects in upstate/rural communities in New York state, this is a no brainer investment. Thanks for posting about it.

    1. fredwilson

      sadly nothing is “no brainer” when it comes to the political process. we just need to push harder.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        Don’t I know it. Here in CT they are slashing a lot of no brainer items such as public transit.

        1. Pointsandfigures

          For every $1 our taxes are increased in Chicago and Illinois, .99 goes to funding bloated public pensions. Connecticut is on it’s way. We have to approve a .25 per ride increase on the CTA (Chicago public transit). None of it will go to improved service, and the city taxes ridesharing even more.

          1. Susan Rubinsky

            In CT, 53.1% of the budget goes to fixed costs, including pensions. It seriously needs restructuring and that is the #1 key recommendation that came out of CT’s Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth that was published on March 1, 2018. However, their #2 & #8 recommendations was investment in transportation and STEM.

  2. Mike Zamansky

    I’ve spoken to a lot of people across the state over the past couple of years and all over the state, from north of the city, to the Hudson Valley, and all the way up to Buffalo, community leaders, parents, teachers, and kids are begging for this.

    1. fredwilson

      for sure. a wealthy city like NYC can figure out how do to this on its own. but most of upstate NY needs the state to help

      1. Mike Zamansky

        The zero sum nature of the school day should keep long term costs down, particularly once we have pre-service teacher prep. The costs that are so sorely needed now to jump start things should dissipate over time.On the other hand, the same zero sum nature is also leading to some resistance state wide similar to what I faced at Stuy for years.

      2. LE

        a wealthy city like NYC can figure out howThe secret sauce of NYC is not just wealth (and I am not sure you even meant that literally) but rather a concentration of highly capable and educated people that have abilities in a wide variety of areas and that can ‘figure out how to do this’ type of thing. That is a huge advantage that the city has over even other large cities. Let alone the rest of the state. NYC is a destination for many who want to make their mark and advance in the same way as the US is a destination for people outside of our country who are motivated enough to leave their home state or country. This is exactly the reason why I pushed my daughters to move their after college.

  3. Richard

    As Anyone who has been to upstate New York in the summmer knows, there is no better place to share the long days of summer than in NY’s hills and ponds and lakes. If NY would promote this with the promise of using some of the tax proceeds to fund CS education, it could be a win win.

    1. Pointsandfigures

      fly fishing in Battenkill, NY. Awesome place.

    2. PhilipSugar

      I prefer Oswego. Was there last week.

  4. Pointsandfigures

    This is a worthy goal and you’d love to see these kids get that opportunity but how is it going to get solved via the current political bureaucracy?Brilliant.org could teach more people at a cheaper rate with more support than public education. (I am an investor) Maybe vouchers for kids so they can spend it with people that are ready willing and able to teach?My home city spends a ton on each individual kid, but the money gets chewed up in administrative costs before it gets to the kids. Kids in bad neighborhoods are doomed to go to failing schools and don’t have any choice. Frustrating.

    1. fredwilson

      to make a real impact you have to go where the kids are every day and that is in school. it is painful to work with this bureaucracy but i don’t see any other way

      1. sigmaalgebra

        There is another “way”. It’s already there. It was naturally and inevitably there, strongly there, and it’s strong.(1) Naturally kids hate feeling helpless and subordinate and desperately seek adult competence.(2) The kids see what topics their parents, other family members, etc. are good at and want to learn about those topics.(3) In addition, kids see the influences from the society more generally. E.g., in the past a lot of kids wanted to be NASA astronauts, nuclear physicists, high performance automotive engineers, chemists, radio engineers, railroad engineers, steam engine engineers, etc. Now kids are awash in influences from computing, e.g., computer science, the big “shortages”, and the so far continuing outrageous hype about “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence”.Well, due to (1)-(3), lots of kids are all eager to learn about computing. No shortage of interest.Then how will the kids learn? The usual ways:(1) The same way they learn the most important lessons for their first 12 years or so, at their parents’ knees.(2) From their friends.(3) From pop culture.(4) From their computer-based gadgets, smartphones, laptop computers, desktop computers, game computers with graphical processing units (GPUs), wireless routers, books, Internet content, etc.Will ALL the kids learn approximately equally well? The answer is standard — nope.A big part of this is when the parents have good careers in computing. The situation, the effect, is standard with strong examples in pure math, physics, law, medicine, various parts of engineering, business, etc. That is, for any topic A, children of parents good at topic A get a big advantage having a career based on topic A.So, kids with parents in computing often will race ahead. By the time they get to their freshman year as computer science majors at Stanford, CMU, MIT, etc., they know a LOT of the standard, practical stuff — computer hardware basics, operating systems, data representation, data types, programming languages, algorithms, data structures, protocols, APIs, concurrency, database, computational time complexity at least through big-O notation, and more. In their third or fourth year they will be taking graduate courses with some opportunities to publish some papers.Then 90+% of them will essentially grind to a halt: They will encounter the tough, unplowed ground of (A) making significant progress in “computer science” or (B) building a significant computer-based business. For nearly all of (A) and in the future for a lot of (B) they will encounter a huge problem: They will desperately need a solid undergraduate major or MS in pure and applied math, won’t have it, and will be seriously blocked.How many such students will there be? Some standard fraction of the number of parents with good careers in computing.What about all the other students? Same as in all other fields, the advantages of what parents they have, etc.How many students should emphasize computing? Standard, first cut answer for all fields — some fixed fraction of parents with good careers in computing. And we’ve got that now.How do we get that fraction? Standard, natural way — where most of the important education happens, the family.What about the public K-12 schools? Well, liberals in wealthy areas want K-12 to replace much of the family, and other people say “No way”. And that’s where it stands.

      2. Pointsandfigures

        Totally am on the same page with you when it comes to actual human/human contact. I wonder if it’s time to try a third way? Here is what we know for sure: It can’t be 100% virtual. If it goes through the normal bureaucratic process, it’s almost guaranteed to fail for most of the population. How do we change it?Maybe instead of increasing the spend, give each kid in those districts a voucher that can only be spent on paying for a private teacher. Teacher could do some stuff virtually, and also be there in person on a frequent enough cadence to make a difference.Maybe there is another way but I just feel like if we increase a govt budget these days no matter what the problem the answer will be the same.

  5. meredithcollinz


  6. sigmaalgebra

    I live in Upstate NYS, i.e., 70 miles north of Wall Street. So, this post is aimed at people like me.Okay, I’m skeptical and conclude that more information is needed.E.g., my whole career is in essentially just applied math and computing, and I have a lot of experience in both. For computing, I taught it to classes at Georgetown University and Ohio State University. I believe that there was some value for the students for that teaching.But at this point, just what might be done for teaching “computer science” in K-12 in Upstate NYS, I’m unsure.In a sense, there is little or no need: No doubt nearly all but the really poor kids are already good with smartphones, e-mail, Web browsers, Google, Facebook, SNAP, etc. When they need to write term papers, they will get good enough with word processing.So, what the heck is left to teach in “computer science” in K-12 worth the additional costs to the school system and the class time taken from other subjects? Before calling my Upstate NY representatives, I’d like to see a list, a proposal, a syllabus, the results of some pilot programs, etc.Okay, for one concern: What is to be taught is “computer science”? Well, there is the standard remark, “Any field that calls itself a science isn’t.”.Well, okay, one response is that “computer science” includes some profound questions in pure and applied math, especially the one about P versus NP. I doubt that the intention is to teach such topics in K-12.So, setting aside such profound questions, …, hmm …. We could teach the topic in applied statistics regression analysis. The computer science community now calls that material machine learning and/or artificial intelligence. Well, could teach some version of it, e.g., as early as late grade school. It would be like teaching about cars — do learn how to drive but don’t get into how a differential works, how the planetary gears work, about the metallurgy of piston rings, timing of camshafts. But if get very deep into regression analysis, then have a lot of pure math prerequisites and have at least a junior level college course.Well, regression analysis is likely about 100 years old, if go back to Gauss even older, and so far there’s been little effort to teach it in college, even to math majors, and essentially no effort to teach it in K-12. So, tough to think that the proposal is to teach regression analysis — a.k.a., machine learning or artificial intelligence — in K-12.So, if take out mere routine skills at computer usage and the pure/applied math, what is left to teach? Okay, sure, can start the kids on writing code. Can start with Python, maybe teach some SQL, and move on to HTTP, HTML, CSS, and client side JavaScript. So, each student can bring up on a cloud server some place a personal Web page with a JPG picture, some MP3 sound of their voice, maybe an MP4 video, and pictures of their dog and cat.So, we’re talking not “computer science” but basic skills at computer technology.With Python, etc., can teach some basic data analysis, e.g., mean, mode, median, drawing graphs. So, again that is getting into some applied math, i.e., adding some computer technology to fifth and sixth grade math. Maybe.Okay, maybe I’ve got it!!!! Teach Objective C and have the kids write some iPhone apps!!!!! That’s the idea??Here’s a better idea: Just teach the 3Rs; do a really good job at that as has been possible for 100+ years. If in addition the kids use computers for word processing or looking up things via Google, fine. What else?

    1. Richard

      Great insight. Teaching a programming language is basically Fred’s agenda. I agree that it makes no sense to teach high level programming, year and year. But I could see teaching it in high school for a semester or two.

    2. Rick Mason

      Today kids need basic knowledge of word processing and spreadsheets to successfully enter the job market. It’s inconceivable to me in the next fifty years that they wouldn’t need basic programming skills. They won’t all become full time programmers but the basic skill set will be needed as most jobs shift to becoming some version of information workers. Today it might be a spreadsheet macro, tomorrow writing a custom report in say JavaScript.

      1. Rob Underwood

        Respectively disagree. Focusing on “word processing and spreadsheets” is skating to the puck. Javascript, etc. is skating to where the puck will be.

  7. Richard

    6mm seems like chump change for so many in NY. Why can’t this be privaltely funded?

    1. Rob Underwood

      I can tell you first hand that raising money for CS has gotten harder in the last 3-4 years.I attribute part of that to 1) a perception among some after the big surge in interest a few years ago that the work is done (reality is we are barely at end of the beginning) and 2) a very large non-profit that has become the default cause/donation destination for many companies in tech — essentially the “no one got fired for choosing IBM” non profit for CS philanthropy. You’re not the first person to think it’s should be easy to raise this money privately. It’s not.It’s also worth noting that there is only so far philanthropy can and should go. As this “market” for CS ed matures we need to move to a more typical model as found in nearly every other education subject, namely that the bulk of funding comes from state and local tax bases that go to viable for-profit curriculum providers. Right now it’s philanthropy from a small set of funders (e.g., Infosys Foundation, who is one of the larger funders) funding non-profit curriculum and products and while that’s helpful to get started, that model is not sustainable, IMO, in the long term. “normal education” is public funds being used to buy products from for-profit education companies.

      1. Richard

        Maybe but people with multiple homes asking the woman struggling to pay for one home for a little bit more ?

        1. Rob Underwood

          Not sure I follow — you mean that “public funding” = “the woman struggling to pay for one home” and people with multiple homes = “private philanthropy”.I’ll just say it again — private philanthropy can’t be the long term plan to fund a single subject, CS education, in public schools. Other subjects are funded with public funding to district/schools that those districts/schools use to purchase curriculum from Pearson, Scholastic, etc. No other subject in schools works like CS is working now (part of that is because in most states CS, including NYS, CS is still not an “official” subject in terms of teacher licensure).Philanthropy should be viewed as seed funding for this subject (CS Edu), not its long term support funding. That’s one reason turning on the state funding spicket is important.

          1. Richard

            I disagree. Where are all the tech unicorns and their VCs ? Where are the neveau bitcoin millionaires? Not only do they have the $ but it’s in their interest to fund this program. Where are the students ? Why aren’t they marching for computer literacy?The model of going back to the middle income for another general tax dollar needs to be disrupted.

          2. Rob Underwood

            General point: We don’t fund our national defense or police force through philanthropy — why would we take the private philanthropy approach toward public schools?More specifically…1) Our host has been working really hard for several years to raise money for CS education in NYC. He and his team have made tremendous progress. But it’s very hard work. You may think that the the “neveau (sic) bitcoin millionaires” will just pony up cash but they don’t. The tech sector, both organizationally and individually, could give much much more but they are just not yet supporting this to the scale they might yet. If you have specific concrete ideas for how to convince tech companies and tech m/billionaires to give more money to CS education, a bunch of us are all ears. But it’s not trivial to solicit this money. People head nod to the cause but that doesn’t mean they write the check.2) There is a very dominant non-profit in CS education that is the default source for many donors tipping their toes into this work. While they do good work, they are so dominant in terms of their marketing reach that it makes it very difficult to raise money for other CS education non-profits, especially those with a regional focus.Overall point is that I don’t think private philanthropy can do all of this. Again, why would’t we be taking the same business model that is used for math, social studies, ELA, etc.?

          3. Richard

            We are not talking about private philanthropy for the NY school systems and it’s $600 Billion dollar budget. What we are proposing is getting the talkers to be walkers and by funding 4 years / 24 million dollars to pilot this program. We have tech funds with IRR of 50%.

          4. Rob Underwood

            Great. Do you have a specific, concrete idea for getting those talkers to walkers?Our host, some of the commenters here, and bunch of other people have worked really hard to raise money for this cause. Many are getting paid way below market to dedicate big chunks of their peak earning years to this cause.If you have a concrete idea for how to get some individuals or orgs to put up the $6M, put it forward. Otherwise, you’re just another person sitting on the sidelines telling the people in the trenches that our work should be easy. It’s not.

          5. Richard

            I don’t think it’s easy. I think that the tech community has been given a free pass over the past 10 years. I recall Mario Marino in 2001 self funding many efforts. Who is doing that today with 5-10% of their net worth.I don’t live in NY and don’t really have skin in NYs K-12 CS game but here are a few ideas.1) (I posted this above) As Anyone who has been to upstate New York in the summer knows, there is no better place to share the long days of summer than in NY’s hills and ponds and lakes. If NY would promote this with the promise of using some of the tax proceeds to fund CS education, it could be a win win.2) it’s you can coinvince CS is shortest path to registering kids to vote / getting kids to become politicically active you’ll get the power donor dems3) take advantage of the recent Anti-Gun march. Looks like kids can the attention of adults when it’s important to them.

  8. Dino Vendetti

    Lot’s of great comments in this thread and Fred thanks for highlighting this topic . Several years ago I invested in a startup called code.hs who developed a computer science curriculum that is web/cloud delivered but implemented through schools. The founders realized they needed to reach the students inside the class rooms, needed to incorporate sophisticated teacher training modules so that the teachers learn how to teach CS and to do so with their platform, and they also learned from much experience that they needed a real time virtual tutor component to help the students after school when they get stuck on their assignments (they hire college CS majors to be the virtual tutors). Code.hs is in thousands of schools across the country and they now offer middle school through community college level courses. The tough issue that is pointed out in this post, is how difficult it is to turn the big bureaucratic ship that is our education system in the country. I think it requires a combination of citizen intervention like this to break down the barriers that have prevented the model of education delivery from changing for way too long. I’m super passionate about seeing this change happen and appreciate the hard work so many people across the country are doing to fix this.

    1. Rob Underwood

      See my comment below (https://avc.com/2018/03/k12…. We also need to turn the ship to public funding to schools being used to purchase CS curriculum from for-profit companies like CodeHS and Codesters (the latter for which I serve as an advisor). There is only so far we can go with philanthropy funding 501(c)3s. It’s been really helpful but can’t be the only model.

      1. Dino Vendetti

        I agree the funding model is broken. There are a lot of people way more knowledgable than me on this, but it sure does seem like the business model of the education system in the country is in need of reform. We need to rethink how we deliver the educational product to our kids and adults, what we teach, etc. If you look out 30+ years, it’s clear that we won’t be doing it the way we currently are. Therefore, the question is what is the correct architecture of the education system of the future and how do we move toward that now at an accelerating rate. Tough issues and questions but important ones to think strategically about.

        1. Rob Underwood

          Yes, there is lots that is broken with how we fund schools. But we also can’t get too distracted with fixing that much larger and complex problem and lose sight that there is already a model for school funding — i.e., public fundings goes to districts/schools with which those districts/schools purchase curriculum from the likes of Pearson, Scholastic, etc. I feel we should be as much focused on supporting for profit models that work within that existing model as we are to support non-profits that work outside it. I did not always feel this way but after 5 years working alternatively full and part time on this, I think we need to be at least as focus on the former model.

  9. Guy Lepage

    Super important initiative.