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De Blasio Announces Computer Science Program, Other Initiatives For NYC Public School Students

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- All of New York City's 1.1 million public school students will soon have access to computer science education, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.

De Blasio released a video to launch the program, called "Computer Science for All," before arriving to a packed auditorium at Bronx Latin School to detail the plan.

Computer Science For All by NYC Mayor's Office on YouTube

The $81 million public-private partnership will train 5,000 teachers over the next 10 years and will provide computer science classes to students in elementary, middle and high schools.

"Every city dollar will be matched by one from the private sector," de Blasio said.

De Blasio Announced New Education Programs

The administration says right now, too many schools do not have the resources to ensure they are computer-science proficient.

"A computer science education is literacy for the 21st century," the mayor said. "When you do find students in computer class, they're learning word processing or typing when they should be learning how to code."

De Blasio Announces Computer Science Program For NYC Public School Students

Currently, less than 5 percent of city students have access to computer science. The plan would start kids at the elementary school level, but would not be a mandatory requirement.

Many parents said the program is a great idea.

"I do think it's very important for the kids," mother Jennifer Rivera told CBS2's Andrea Grymes. "He wants to be a scientist when he gets older, so it'll be awesome for him."

"For my kids and considering the changing of times, I want them to be able to keep up with it and do it safely," said parent Yakema Brisman.

Computer science is imperative for the future, said Sabree Muhammad, director of college transition for a charter school.

"Students are manipulating technologies possibly from infancy," she told WCBS 880's Sean Adams. "So to be provided this opportunity, particularly in the school setting, really excites the interest that has already been there."

One eighth-grader said he believes the initiative could help prepare him for his future career.

"I want to be like an engineer -- electrical engineer," he said. "So you can invent stuff, like electronics."

De Blasio hopes to fill many of the tech jobs in New York City with locals.

"Think about the world we live in now," he said. "Hundreds of thousands of good jobs will be accessible to those with coding and other essential skills."

Computer science is just one part of the mayor's education reforms.

De Blasio also announced several other initiatives, including mandating students complete algebra by ninth grade, expanding advanced placement classes to every school and universal second-grade literacy. Currently, just 30 percent of city students in grades 3 through 8 are proficient at reading. Only 35 percent pass math tests.

"There is a tale of two cities in our schools, and we will not accept it," de Blasio said. "Each and every child in each and every classroom deserves a future that isn't limited by their ZIP code."

In addition, the "Single Shepherd" program will provide a dedicated counselor to each student for middle to high school for academic, social and emotional needs in struggling districts.

With these initiatives, de Blasio listed a series of goals he hopes city schools will reach:

• Within six years, 67 percent of students will be able to read with fluency by the end of second grade

Within 10 years, 80 percent will graduate from high school

Within 10 years, 67 percent will be ready for college -- now it's only 47 percent.

"Is it going to be hard? A little, but so is everything else we do," schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told CBS2's Marcia Kramer. "So I am fully committed to making all these initiatives work."

Also driving the mayor is politics, Kramer reported. He's still smarting from the fact that the Legislature only extended mayoral control of the schools for one year. He doesn't want that to happen again.

Recently, even former Mayor Rudy Giuliani weighed in, saying mayoral control is "absolutely essential for the future progress and development of New YOrk City schools."

The new program can be viewed as the first phase of a de Blasio lobbying effort to convice lawmakers to give him a long-term extension.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, praised the programs, but told 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa that the state "owes New York City public schools billions of dollars, which they have refused to pay up to this point."

"All we're asking folks is stop playing politics with education," Mulgrew told CBS2. "Let's get back to research -- we know what works -- and supporting each school community."

And after getting into a losing debate with the governor and the Legislature over charter schools, the mayor proposed a new program to pair 50 charter schools with public schools so the charters can share their "best practices."

The total cost of the new programs is $186 million -- less than 1 percent of the Department of Education's operating budget of nearly $22 billion.

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