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Mayor Bill De Blasio’s new initiative that makes computer science mandatory for New York City’s 1.1 million public school students is a powerful step toward mitigating the digital divide between the rich and poor. In partnership with Fred and Joanne Wilson and their organization, CSNYC, the New York City Department of Education, the Fund for Public Schools and the Mayor’s Office, Robin Hood has been an early and lead supporter of this $81 million public/private initiative. Here’s why:

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New York City’s tech sector is a wellspring of rising earnings (an average hourly wage of $39.50) and job prospects (291,000). Plus, half of those tech jobs are at non-tech companies and in other industries, like retail and healthcare.. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2022, 1.3 million tech jobs will need to be filled.

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Skills are the primary qualification for many tech jobs, including data entry positions and data technicians. With an average hourly wage of $27.75, tech sector jobs that do not require a college degree pay 45 percent more than non-tech jobs with similar requirements. That makes them particularly attractive options for low-income students, who are less likely to attend and graduate from college.

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Research shows early exposure to computer science concepts is crucial to learning its relevant skills. Many high school students who come to Robin Hood-backed coding classes lack basic skills, such as how to log on to a desktop or navigate files.

Capacity is a major barrier: Of 75,000 New York City teachers, fewer than 100 teach computer science. A major component of the approved initiative will train educators to deliver computer science-related content at each level of the K-12 journey.

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By establishing standards for computer science knowledge at every age, New York City will create a blueprint for school systems across the country.

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Robin Hood will lend its expertise to the research component of the initiative to determine if computer science education can transfer to success in critical thinking or other brain functions. Better evidence regarding the impact of this exposure will lead to smarter investments in poverty fighting.

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