A new coalition of business and education groups says it hopes to expand and improve computer science education in Maine. The group — which includes the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the University of Maine system and Microsoft — is calling itself CS4Maine.
In an announcement Friday, the coalition said that it is advocating for new policies, including the development of academic standards around computer science and a boost in funding for teacher training.
A report from a legislative task force earlier this year found that less than one-third of schools across Maine offer computer science programs. Meanwhile, only 112 students graduated from computer science programs in the state in 2015.
Dani McAvoy Lamarca, with the computer science organization code.org, says that Maine has already fallen behind several states when it comes to computer science. Only 16 percent of Maine high schools offered AP computer science last year, and only one-fifth of those test-takers were female.
"There are lots of these that Maine could easily make steps forward with," Lamarca says. "We just need buy-in from certain institutions and government entities to make those steps."
The group hopes its efforts will help Maine to fill the hundreds of open computing jobs within the state. Jason Judd is the director of Project Login, a program from the business-led education lobbying group Educate Maine, which offers computer science resources to schools.
He says there are many different kinds of computing jobs "including everything from tech companies, to healthcare, to manufacturing, to agriculture. And those open jobs here in Maine are going to keep growing if we don't work on the workforce pipeline into those positions."
Judd says the coalition plans to raise the issue in the Maine legislature as well, including pushing for increased investment in computer science at the state Department of Education.