Mississippi legislators unanimously approved HB 1165, the computer science education bill, in the House Education Committee on March 3, clearing the way for the full House of Representatives to consider a vote on the legislation.
C Spire and the grassroots Mississippi’s Future Can’t Wait movement have championed the legislation authored by Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach. If passed into law, the bill would bring computer science education to all 884 public and charter schools in the state.
“We’re pleased that the bill has momentum, and we are going to redouble our efforts to win passage this session,” said Carla Lewis, CTO of C Spire. “Computer science is too important to our future, our children’s future and our state’s future to slow down now.”
Lewis 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 and radio campaign begun last month to encourage state lawmakers to promote a stronger computer science foundation in the state.
Public support for more computer science emphasis in the classroom is strong. 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.
Despite the groundswell of support, the path to passage is not guaranteed. The 122-member House of Representatives will have an opportunity to vote on the legislation by March 12. Then, members of the Senate—where a companion bill, SB 2284, did not get a hearing or vote in committee—will also need to pass it. But the time to address this need is now, Lewis stressed.
“We literally hold these young peoples’ future in our hands in how we handle this issue,” Lewis said. “Until we get computer science in all classrooms, Mississippi will continue to lag behind neighboring states in giving all students exposure to the fundamentals necessary for their success in the 21st century economy."
C Spire has worked closely to educate, inform and amend 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,” Lewis said. “We want this to work, and that’s why we have agreed to a phased approach so that all schools have enough time to make this a reality.”
Mississippi students have made great strides in recent years. 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 made good progress, but we need to continue our efforts so that all students have an opportunity to learn computer science,” Lewis said.
C Spire has been heavily involved in efforts to promote computer science education in Mississippi, investing more than $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.
Mississippi's Future Can't Wait
Mississippi needs computer science education in all our schools. Contact your legislator in support of computer science for every school. Text FUTURE to 50457 or visit ourMSfuture.com for more info.