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Local lawmaker sees bright future for computer science in Missouri

by Anna Campbell | April 9, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, addresses Missouri House members and staffers Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, during a House committee hearing. (News Tribune photo)

Missouri needs people with an aptitude for computer science, according to one representative.

Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, is sponsoring HB 2202, a bill that he has called an "extension" of a previous bill that was already passed into law. That law allowed students to substitute computer science courses for science or practical arts credits to satisfy graduation requirements. The current bill would extend that provision to college entry requirements, making the two sets of credit requirements the same.

"We want those graduation requirements to match entrance requirements for our public higher ed," he said.

Additionally, the bill requires teaching of computer science courses at the high school level. It also requires the appointment of a computer science adviser within the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to oversee computer science in education.

"Another piece that I think is really important is that there is a leader in the state of Missouri through DESE that's kind of the voice for the computer science training program because there's over 10,000 jobs available in the marketplace in Missouri alone that average $80,000 or more per year that are available today, and so this high-tech need in our state is pretty big," he said.

Fitzwater said that's why students need to be trained in computer science before they get into the workforce.

The bill will also create a "Computer Science Education Task Force" made up of two state representatives, two senators, the governor or a designee, the commissioner of education and commissioner of higher education or their designees, and six other members appointed by the commissioner of education. That task force will oversee the expansion of computer science throughout the state, and the task force will end by June 2024.

"That is just to try to come up with a strategy across all expertise on how we continue to encourage computer science training across our state," he said. Fitzwater said the task force will make recommendations to the Legislature on encouraging computer science training.

"The future, I think, is bright," he said. He thinks computer science is a much-needed skillset in today's workforce.

Fitzwater's bill will be heard Tuesday in the Senate Education Committee.

The bill has so far received broad bipartisan support, with 148 yes votes and 0 no votes in the House.

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