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Bipartisan Bill in Congress Seeks to Help Schools Teach AI Literacy

Educators have been thinking about how to explain the benefits and drawbacks of artificial intelligence since ChatGPT made a big splash this past year. Turns out, Congress is thinking about it, too.

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers—Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Larry Bucshon, R-Ind.—this month introduced the “Artificial Intelligence Literacy Act.”

The technology is increasingly critical to numerous fields—from health care to agriculture—but too few Americans comprehend its power, or potential to create new problems, according to Blunt Rochester and Bucshon’s summary of the legislation.

Increasingly, AI literacy will help Americans understand how the technology impacts their lives, as well helping to ensure the nation remains economically competitive and militarily secure, the summary said.

The bill would shine a spotlight on the importance of teaching AI literacy. And it would make it clear that K-12 schools, colleges, nonprofits and libraries can use grants available under an existing program—the $1.25 billion Digital Equity Competitive Grant program—to support AI literacy. It defines AI literacy as understanding the basic principles of AI, its applications and limitations, as well as ethical considerations.

“By ensuring that AI literacy is at the heart of our digital literacy program, we’re ensuring that we can not only mitigate the risk of AI but seize the opportunity it creates to help improve the way we learn and the way we work,” Blunt Rochester said in a statement.

“As we navigate the complexities of artificial intelligence in the 21st century, we must continue to increase our literacy in order to foster an informed public,” Bucshon said in a statement. “America must be ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.”

The legislation has the support of education groups such as the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the American Federation of Teachers, a 1.7-million-member union, as well as advocates for greater access to computer science education, such as Code.org, and workforce development groups, such as the nonprofit Jobs for the Future.

Importantly, the bill doesn’t set aside new money for teaching AI. That might disappoint educators hungry for resources, but it also may boost its chances of passage. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are bent on reining in spending and unlikely to embrace legislation that calls for new money.

The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, on which both Blunt Rochester and Bucshon sit.

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