Obama seeks billions for programming classes

President Barack Obama will ask Congress for $US4.1 billion to expand computer programming classes in every public school, the White House says.

The proposal, backed by technology firms including Apple, Google and Microsoft, will be included in Obama's fiscal 2017 budget, to be released on February 9.

Teaching basic coding to more grade-school children is necessary to expand the U.S. economy, Obama said.

"In the new economy, computer science isn't an optional skill - it's a basic skill," Obama said in his weekly television and radio address. "I've got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science."

The president's proposal would provide $US4 billion to states and $US100 million to school districts over three years that could be used to train teachers, expand course offerings and improve programmes that encourage girls and minorities to pursue technology careers.

The White House said technology companies had pledged to increase their investments in computer-science education as part of the initiative.

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