C Spire grassroots campaign to get computer science in all K-12 public and charter schools makes key advance
A bill championed by C Spire that would give elementary, middle and high school students in Mississippi access to computer science curriculum in the classroom won overwhelming approval Wednesday from the Mississippi House of Representatives.
HB 1165 by Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, to bring computer science education to the state’s 884 public and charter K-12 schools by the 2023-2024 school year, was approved 114-2 by the 122-member House a day before the deadline for floor action on the legislation during the 2020 session.
Earlier this month, a companion bill, SB 2284 by State Senator Scott DeLano, R-Biloxi, did not receive a hearing or vote in the Senate Education Committee by the March 3 deadline. With the House’s action as a guide, supporters are now hopeful the Senate will reconsider its position and back efforts calling for computer science education in all public K-12 schools.
“We appreciate the leadership of House Speaker Philip Gunn, House Education Committee Chairman Richard Bennett and the House for taking action on such an important issue,” said C Spire President and CEO Hu Meena. “Because of their action, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Mississippi school-age children have the potential to be improved with computer science.”
The next stop for the bill will be the Mississippi State Senate, which has until the end of the month (March 31) for committee consideration and approval of a companion measure. If that occurs, the 52 Senate members will have until April 8 to decide the legislation’s fate by bringing a proposal to the Senate floor for a final vote.
Meena said Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, business leaders, teachers, school superintendents and thousands of voters have responded to the company’s comprehensive grassroots online, social media, TV, radio and letter writing campaign begun last month to encourage state lawmakers to promote a stronger computer science foundation in the state.
The letters, which reached all 174 state lawmakers, cited countless examples of how computer science will enhance education and job opportunities for students so they can pursue their hopes and dreams for success in life. “People really understand and embrace the importance of this moment for our state’s future,” Meena said.
“Getting computer science in all Mississippi classrooms represents a tremendous opportunity to give our young people exposure to the fundamentals necessary for their success in the new 21st century digital economy,” Meena said, noting that computer science teaches critical thinking, computational and problem solving skills that benefit all students.
C Spire has worked closely with lawmakers to refine the legislation that would help make computer science available in all schools fully by the 2023-2024 academic year. Many districts and schools have made progress and will not need to make changes while others will need to boost teacher training and update courses to the latest curriculum.
“We’re committed to helping all of our schools overcome any barriers that might stand in the way of offering computer science in classrooms,” Meena said, adding that C Spire is offering to help identify solutions for more teacher training and distance learning. Today, only 47 percent of the state’s high schools teach computer science.
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.
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