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Revised computer science bill passes House committee

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Sept. 14 update: House Bill 3 has been Truly Agreed To And Finally Passed and awaits the Governor’s signature.

During the special legislative session this week, lawmakers are working to revise and pass a bill that will incentivize more Missouri high schoolers to take computer science courses by allowing those courses to count toward graduation as a math, science or elective requirement.

House Bill 3 also creates a process to establish rigorous new computer science standards and curriculum guidelines, create a certification for computer science teachers, create a fund to help train computer science teachers, and bring an online program to Missouri that showcases STEM careers to students.

On Sept. 11, the House Committee on Workforce Development took testimony from Missourians and then passed the bill.

“In areas where there are real socio-economic issues, these kids are taking these classes…at a larger growth rate than the other socio-economic classes, which is crucial because it’s showing that in the tech industry, we need to start filling those gaps,” said bill sponsor Rep. Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit), citing Code.org statistics.

Several business groups and education organizations testified in support of the bill, including the Missouri Chamber, Code.org and the KC Tech Council.

“This was the number one issue that our members cared about with workforce, so we’re excited that it’s getting the attention it deserves,” said Ryan Stauffer, Missouri Chamber director of legislative affairs.

Some testimony highlighted that the legislation would help Missouri catch up with other states.

“There are currently 44 states that have legislation in place around computer science education. Missouri has nothing,” pointed out Katie Hendrickson, the director of state government affairs at Code.org.

KC Tech Council President Ryan Weber emphasized the workforce development impact of the bill.

“Without some of these policies in place, tech companies that are looking at Missouri and tech companies that are in Missouri wonder, ‘Is there going to be a future workforce for us?’” said Weber. “And I think by allowing this computer science class to count as a credit is a great first step to show that Missouri kids are interested in pursuing these opportunities as well. If it doesn’t count, they’re not going to take it.”

Gov. Parson has established workforce development as a leading priority for his administration. Likewise, improving computer science education in Missouri is one component of the Missouri Chamber’s education and workforce development goals in Missouri 2030, a statewide strategic plan for economic growth.

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