February 8, 2018 2 min read

Boosting Missouri’s workforce with computer science education bills

Sens. Rizzo and Libla present their bills on Feb. 6.

Two similar Senate bills were jointly heard in committee on Feb. 6 that would improve and expand computer science education in Missouri.

The legislation would require the state to develop computer science standards, create a certification for teaching computer science and establish a fund for teacher professional development. The legislation also seeks to encourage more students to take computer science courses by allowing them to fulfill one unit of academic credit with a district-approved computer science course for any math, science or practical arts unit required for high school graduation.

SB 894 is sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla, a Republican from Poplar Bluff. Libla said Missouri would be one of the last 10 states to implement legislation like this.

“Now is the time for us to get into the 21st century and start teaching what students need to learn to really get a good career,” said Libla.Preparing the Workforce graphic.

Sen. John Rizzo, a Democrat from Kansas City who is sponsoring SB 921, emphasized that it will help develop a competitive workforce in the state.

“If a kid knows how to code graduating college, they will have a job. There is no question about it,” said Rizzo. “If we put this in schools and kids are given an option to do this instead of a math credit we’re going to get way ahead of the game.”

Katie Hendrickson, the director of state government affairs at Code.org, agreed and pointed out that there are already high-paying jobs waiting to be filled.

“Missouri currently has over 10,000 open computing jobs with an average salary of $82,000, which is almost double the average salary in the state,” Hendrickson said.

The Missouri Chamber is a strong supporter of the legislation as part of the Missouri 2030 strategic plan to invest in the state’s workforce.

“We know that STEM careers are going to grow at a 50 percent faster rate than other careers,” said Ryan Stauffer, the director of workforce and education policy at the Missouri Chamber. “We think that incentivizing and encouraging as many students as possible to take these courses will help to fill those job demands.”

Meanwhile, the similar House Bill 1623 by Rep. Travis Fitzwater successfully passed the House Workforce Development Committee on Feb. 5 and is now in the Rules Administrative Oversight Committee.

For more information, contact Stauffer at rstauffer@mochamber.com or 573.634.3511.

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