A bill championed by C Spire that would give all 463,000 elementary, middle and high school students in Mississippi access to computer science curriculum passed a key legislative hurdle Tuesday with House Education Committee approval of HB 1165.
The bill 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 unanimously by the panel on the final day for committee advancement of legislation during the 2020 session.
The next stop for the bill will be the full House of Representatives, where 122 members will have an opportunity to vote on the legislation by March 12. A companion bill, SB 2284 by State Senator Scott DeLano, R-Biloxi, did not receive a hearing or vote in the Senate Education Committee.
“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 the Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services firm. “Computer science is too important to 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.
The letters, which went to all 52 Senators and 122 House members, 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. “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,” Lewis said, noting that computer science teaches critical thinking, computational and problem solving skills.
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.”
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.
The grassroots computer science education campaign is part of the C Spire Tech Movement designed to move communities forward wi