CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A measure that would require Wyoming K-12 schools to provide all students with computer science instruction has been endorsed by a state Senate committee despite concerns from some that it could be tough for small schools to offer the new course.
The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved Senate File 29 on Wednesday. The proposal now goes to the full Senate for debate.
Under the bill, schools would be required to provide computer science instruction to all students in each grade and provide standards on what students at each grade level are expected to master in computer science. Districts would have five years to comply.
State schools Superintendent Jillian Balow supports the bill, saying it would help prepare Wyoming students for the well paid technology jobs of the future.
“Without sounding trite, I will simply state that we can’t afford not to do this,” Balow said after the hearing. “My goal, my dream, my vision all along, that is hopefully coming to fruition this session, is that every single student in grades K through 12 have access to computer science instruction that’s meaningful in creating technology and using technology innovatively and that we have specific and discreet computer science pathways for our older students who want to pursue computer science.”
A separate bill is being considered in the state House that would not require schools to offer a separate computer science class with standards for students to meet but allow the schools to integrate computer science into other subjects.
Brian Farmer, executive director of the Wyoming School Boards Association, said his organization supports computer science instruction in schools but prefers the House version because it would be easier for smaller schools to implement.
“It would allow for creativity; it would allow for small schools to be innovative in the ways that they implemented it; it wouldn’t necessarily have to be one more class, It could be part of classes,” Farmer said.
The Senate bill would require more resources and money for teacher training, hardware, software and computer science class materials.
No one had any estimates on how much it would cost to add the computer science course in all 48 school districts around the state.
But members of the Senate committee and others said it was important to start the process of building computer science courses and standards while the cost issues with districts could be addressed later.