Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is asking the State Board of Education to amend state policy to allow for computer programming to become a part of the core requirements for high school graduation in his state.
Deal said that he has heard from multiple businesses that skilled computer programmers and software developers are in high demand in the state, with more than 50% of the state's projected job growth to be in STEM-area jobs (science, technology, engineering and math).
"Students need to acquire the 21st century skills necessary to thrive in the modern workforce," Deal said. "Computing is currently one of the fastest growing occupations in the country with average salaries nearly twice the national rate. In fact, more than half of the projected job growth in the STEM fields will be in computing occupations. We must begin training our young people in these areas prior to their post-secondary education so they are prepared to fill these high-wage, in-demand positions."
The current system in place in schools allows students to replace one science class with an AP computer science course. Any other computer course taken counts as an elective with limited access. Currently, only 18% of high schools within the state offer the course, with fewer than 1% of students taking it.
Some schools in the state already offer computer classes as a part of the core curriculum. The Atlanta International School, a private school, requires students in grades 6-10 to take a design engineering class.
Education experts are in support of the new state policy suggestion. They say that learning to code will allow students to more easily create new technology.
"This change will support our STEM efforts — science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby. "It is a recognition of the evolving dynamics of our increasingly technologically dependent world." "If Georgia is to maintain a world-class workforce, then we must ensure that our students can understand and apply sophisticated technology," said Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson. "I applaud Governor Deal for this change that will improve the education of students and build a better future for Georgia."
The proposal could be a response to Democratic opponent Jason Carter, who has publicly criticized Deal's lack of focus on the state's education system.
"This will do little to help the students in rural schools who don't have adequate computers or Internet connections," Carter spokesman Bryan Thomas said.
The 71-year-old Deal has been Georgia's governor since 2010, finishing second in a primary among Republicans, then rallying to win the run-off by just 2,519 votes. After cruising to victory in the Republican primary, Deal now finds himself in a neck-and-neck race for re-election against Jason Carter, grandson of former Georgia governor and US President Jimmy Carter. The latest poll averages from RealClearPolitics have Deal holding on to a slim 2-point lead.