The House has voted to better equip the state’s children for working in tech industries that demand an education in computer science.
House Bill 2202 would require the state’s public high schools to offer some form of computer science class and allow students to count such classes toward graduation requirements for science and practical arts credits, to satisfy admission requirements at colleges and universities.
The bill expands on legislation approved in 2018 that allowed computer science courses to count toward math, science, or practical arts credits needed to graduate high school. That bill, like HB 2202, was sponsored by Holts Summit Republican Travis Fitzwater.
“It provides an opportunity for kids to get the workforce training that our economy in the State of Missouri and our businesses desperately need. There’s over 10,000 open computer science engineering jobs in our economy in just the State of Missouri. Those jobs average over $80,000 a year,” said Fitzwater.
Fitzwater said the bill will help answer the needs of the growing list of innovative companies in Missouri.
“It’s really important that we’re providing training and giving kids opportunities at a much younger age to get the training they need to enter the workforce for all these jobs that are available, for all these opportunities that are available.”
The bill received unanimous support in the House, which voted 148-0 to send it to the Senate.
St. Louis Democrat Bridget Walsh Moore said this will help Missouri catch up.
“Computer science should’ve stopped being an elective about 30 years ago and it definitely needs to stop today. It is an essential part of our education. We want to make sure that the children of Missouri are being properly educated so they can compete in a modern workforce.”
Kara Corches with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry told House members Missouri is a top state for technology jobs with high rankings in both diversity, and women, in the tech workforce, and said HB 2202 would help build on that.
“Missouri is really moving up in the rankings and so our hope is to do everything we can to not just secure these rankings but even to continue to rise in those rankings and continue to attract and build tech talent.”
The bill would also create the Computer Science Education Task Force to help shape schools’ approach to computer education.
“It develops a broad strategy. Not just how do we come up with curriculums but how do we have a strategy on the whole for computer science opportunities for kids?” said Fitzwater. “Coming up with how we, as a strategy, think about educating our kids in these developing fields.”
That task force would be one entity that would receive demographic data to be collected under the bill. Walsh Moore said she was glad to see the inclusion of that effort toward ensuring that children of color and girls are encouraged to enter the computer science and STEM fields.
Fitzwater agreed, “We want to know what kids in the state are taking these classes. That’s why it’s in the underlying bill and I’m glad it’s there.”
HB 2202 also defines “computer science course” as any elementary, middle, or high school course that embeds computer science content with other subjects.
Earlier story: Missouri legislature completes special session, sends two bills to Governor Parson (From 2018)