Computer science education bill passes Senate committee

A Senate committee unanimous approved legislation that would require that all school districts in Indiana add computer science to their curriculum.

The 11-0 vote in the Education and Career Development committee came a week after the panel heard testimony from educators and policy leaders on the importance of requiring Hoosier students to learn fundamentals of computer science. The bill moves to the Appropriations Committee for further review.

Senate Bill 172, authored by Sen. Jeff Raatz, R- Centerville, would have computer science incorporated into a yearly curriculum for students in K-8. Computer science would be an elective for students in grades 9-12.

SB 172 would also include funding to train Indiana teachers to equip them to educate their students in computer science.

In describing the bill, Raatz said that adding a computer science curriculum to every school in Indiana aligns with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s goals.

Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, said last week he would co-author the bill with Raatz because he believes computer science is in the state’s future.

“Seventy percent of jobs today will not be in existence in about 20 years,” said Freeman. “So, we better figure this out and we better get a head of it.”

Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, and Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, challenged Raatz on the definition of computer science. Others questioned the resources available for under-represented populations.

“I’m not qualified by any means to set the standard for what should be taught,” Raatz said, adding that educators should set the standard.

Angela Jones, who used to teach English at Northwest Community High School, testified last week in favor of the proposed legislation. Jones has been teaching for 15 years. For the last three years she has taught computer science courses in her school district.

Jones described how as an English teacher she was overwhelmed when she was asked to switch subjects. But after receiving training she has come to see the value of computer science education.

“It’s [computer science] more than programing, programing is just one aspect,” Jones said. “It’s the ability to be able to communicate what you know in a way that help causes other people to know more.”

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