State Lawmakers in Arizona say that a bill allowing high school students to take a computer science course instead of required math course will make students more competitive for technology jobs. HB 2265 was introduced by Representatives Tom Forese and Ruben Gallego who said they came up with the idea after seeing an inconsistency in the amount of computer science jobs available vs. graduates who had the skills needed to obtain those jobs.
“You have this huge delta in terms of unemployment, yet the jobs of the future are already here and we’re not ready for them,” Forese said.
Forese says that the state’s public universities are not graduating enough science majors to keep up with demand of computer science jobs. Gallego says that business leaders have told him they would love to hire Arizona graduates but that they cannot fulfill the demand, causing businesses to recruit out of state. “Local workers would cost the company less, and then you’re employing people here in Arizona,” he said.
Rachel Leingang with Cronkite News Services reported on the bill, saying that according to Forese, the bipartisan effort shows that computer science is a valuable tool for the state’s students. It received a unanimous endorsement from the House Education Committee.
Arizona state law requires students to take four math credits.
The law says that “one credit that includes significant mathematics content as determined by the local school district governing board or charter school” may be used as a math class.
HB 2265 would allow school districts to make a computer science class one of the math courses required for graduation. The Arizona Board of Regents would determine whether or not those courses are acceptable for college admission. The Arizona Board of Education says in terms of the bill, they are neutral, but a statement from the agency implies they would not change for the school districts.
“Because of the wording of this rule, it is our position that a school district is already free to adopt a computer science course to cover this fourth math credit if they deem it to ‘include significant mathematics content,’ and the bill is not really necessary,” said the statement, attributed to Christopher Kotterman, deputy director of policy development and government relations.
Executive director of community relations for the Tempe Union School District says students are offered an Advanced Placement Computer programming course and an honors mobile device programming class taught by math teachers in exchange for math credits.
Gallego says he understands that some schools use computer science classes, but that “legislation would send a message at the state level and inform parents of the options their children have” and that the bill would “encourage students to learn a skill that could even get them a job right after high school”.