The Governor’s office is helping out local school districts forge computer science curriculums and train teachers within the STEM programs. 765 schools in Pennsylvania will receive a total of almost $9 million in grants.

Neshaminy STEAM expo from previous years.

In Lower Bucks County, three school districts- Council Rock, Neshaminy, and Bristol Township- will receive $35,000 each.

David Geanette, Neshaminy’s Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, said the funding will mostly go towards elementary school programs. The goal is to help students foster an appreciation for the science and technology fields.

The grants are a part of Governor Wolf’s “PAsmart initiative”, providing $20 million for improved STEM education for students and teachers. This makes Pennsylvania the second state in the ranking of investments for computer science education in the country.

Governor Wolf hopes the initiative will introduce and expand computer science programs for the economy’s growing demand for computer skills. PAsmart expects more than 70% of new jobs in the next decade to require these abilities.

“With these grants more students will get the skills they need for emerging high-demand jobs,” said Governor Wolf. “Through these investments we are building a well-trained workforce that will meet the needs of employers, strengthen the middle class, and grow the economy for everyone.”

Statistics show an extreme lack of current computer science programs; In 2016-2017, 324 of the 3,000 schools in Pennsylvania offered a computer science course. Only 2% of students have participated in a computer science course.

Overall, the objective is to “expand access to high-quality computer science courses and programs for Pennsylvania’s K-12 students and increase the number of educators prepared to teach computer science in Pennsylvania’s K-12 schools”

Furthermore, it dives deeper, confronting issues of inequality facing STEM programs across the state; In 2017, fewer than 30% of students enrolled were low-income and only 1% of students were English Learners. Boys are twice as likely to take computer science courses than girls in Pennsylvania, and only 28% of girls who do take these courses in middle and high school were girls of color.

PAsmart plans to “boost participation in CS/STEM education for women, girls, students of color, students in rural and urban areas, students with disabilities, and other historically underserved and underrepresented populations.”

WBCB’s Keri Marable contributed to this post.