Computer science instruction bill introduced in Mississippi State Legislature
C Spire takes next step in grassroots campaign to get computer science in all public K-12 schools
A bill championed by C Spire that would require the state’s K-12 public schools to offer computer science to all elementary and high school students has been introduced in the Mississippi State Legislature.
SB 2284 by State Senator Scott DeLano, R-Biloxi, has seven Senate co-sponsors and is the product of a comprehensive online, social media, TV and radio campaign by the Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services designed to encourage educators and public policy leaders to promote a stronger computer science foundation in the state.
The legislation is expected to receive a hearing soon before the Senate Education and Appropriation committees. A similar bill is being sought in the Mississippi House of Representatives. “We need more rigorous computer science standards in all our schools so that students have the knowledge, skills and abilities to compete for the best jobs in the new 21st century economy,” DeLano said.
Mississippi students have made great strides in recent years, DeLano said. The state’s high school graduation rates have climbed dramatically and improvements in elementary school reading and math scores have led the nation. “We’ve become a national leader in our commitment to higher academic standards through a lot of hard work by students, parents, teachers and school leaders.”
DeLano said the Department of Education and local school districts need to apply a similar focus if the state hopes to inspire and educate more students on the academic and career opportunities and advantages associated with science, technology, engineering and math-related studies.
Part of the push for uniform standards is being fueled by differences in the amount, if any, of computer science education offered by school districts across the state. “The goal is to get more emphasis on this critical core subject in the classroom,” said C Spire CEO Hu Meena, noting that computer science education is taught in less than half of the state’s public high schools.
Meena noted that while some districts may already be exceeding the requirements for computer science instruction, the state public school system needs uniform standards that apply to all of its 872 schools. “Ultimately, we want every student to have the same opportunities to pursue computer science regardless of where they live or what school they attend,” he added.
C Spire has been heavily involved in efforts to promote computer science education in Mississippi, investing over $3 million since 2015 in coding challenges, coding academies, pilot accelerated degree programs and other efforts designed to inspire and encourage students to consider pursuing academic degrees or professional careers in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.
Under the bill, the state would take a phased approach to introducing computer science starting in the 2021-2022 school year, which allows time for teachers to receive professional instructional training. To combat teacher shortages in some areas, remote distance learning also will be offered with assistance from C Spire. See how SB 2284 will impact schools here.
Meena said critical thinking, computational skills, problem solving and collaboration, which are at the core of computer science curriculum, are as essential to modern education as reading, writing and math. “All of our children need these basic, fundamental skills to be successful in society and life no matter what profession or avocation they pursue.”
Public support for more computer science emphasis in the classroom is strong, according to Meena. In a recent Gallup poll, 78 percent of Mississippi principals said they believe computer science is just as or more important than required core classes and 93 percent of parents want their child’s school to teach computer science.
Computing jobs are the leading source of new wages in the U.S. with more than 500,000 unfilled slots nationwide and over 1,000 in Mississippi alone. The average salary for computing jobs is $72,039, almost double the statewide average and 67% of all jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields are in computing, according to Code.org, a non-profit advocacy group.
The grassroots computer science education campaign, which contacted 98 percent of the state’s 52 Senators and 122 House members in the first week, is part of the C Spire Tech Movement begun in 2017 and committed to moving communities forward through technology with a focus on broadband access, workforce development and technology innovation. To learn more about the need for computer science education in K-12 classrooms or to get involved in the “Mississippi’s Future Can’t Wait” campaign, text FUTURE to 50457 or go to www.ourMSfuture.com. To see how SB 2284 will impact schools, go to the SB 2284 blog.