Legislation designed to implement computer science curriculum in the classrooms for all the state’s 884 K-12 public and charter schools has been signed into law with the signature of Gov. Tate Reeves. House Bill 633, known as “The Mississippi Computer Science and Cyber Education Equality Act” authored by Representative Kevin Felsher received overwhelming approval by both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Scott DeLano.
The law comes as the C Spire Foundation committed $1 million in January to help school districts with teacher training and implementation. C Spire executives, education advocates and technology leaders hailed the legislation’s impending passage as a major boost for efforts to give elementary, middle and high school students equal access to computer science curriculum.
Governor Reeves has championed exposing students to computer science as part of his “Ready to Work” education agenda. Reeves commented that “We’ve made great progress in educating and informing the public on the importance of getting more rigorous computer science education in all of our schools so that students have the knowledge, skills and abilities to compete for the best jobs in the new 21st century digital economy,”
C Spire has worked closely with lawmakers to refine the legislation that would help make computer science available in all schools by the 2025 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.
Part of the push for the legislation is being fueled by differences in the amount of computer science education offered by school districts across the state. “C Spire has really stepped up to the plate and wants to move Mississippi forward by building a stronger economy with more high-paying job opportunities,” said Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who oversaw efforts to pass the legislation in the Mississippi Senate.
Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn noted that while some districts may already be exceeding the requirements for computer science instruction, the state public school system needs curriculum that applies to all students and 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.”
Workers with a background in computer science are in high demand and short supply in Mississippi. Employers currently have over 1,475 unfilled jobs due to the serious shortage of trained, qualified IT and computing workers. The average starting salary is almost double the statewide average.
“Getting computer science in all Mississippi classrooms represents a tremendous opportunity to give our young people exposure to the fundamentals necessary for their future success in the workforce,” said C Spire CEO Hu Meena, an advocate who noted that computer science teaches critical thinking, computational and problem-solving skills that benefit all students and future employers.
C Spire has been heavily involved in efforts to promote computer science education in Mississippi since 2015 with 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.
“We want to help our schools overcome any barriers that might stand in the way of offering computer science in classrooms,” said C Spire CTO Carla Lewis, adding that C Spire is offering to help identify solutions for more teacher training and distance learning. Mississippi public K-12 schools are some of the most diverse in the nation, and this effort should help raise more awareness of the opportunities in the computer science industry.
The grassroots computer science education effort is designed to move communities forward with a focus on workforce development, broadband access and technology innovation. To learn more about the need for computer science education in K-12 classrooms or to get involved in the effort, text FUTURE to 50457 or go to www.ourMSfuture.com.