Computer coding bill undergoes transformation in Senate Education Committee

Students at Pasco County's Paul R. Smith Middle School study math on computers in 2015. [Brendan Fitterer | Times]
Students at Pasco County's Paul R. Smith Middle School study math on computers in 2015. [Brendan Fitterer | Times]
Published January 16 2018

Lawmakers' continuing effort to boost computer coding lessons in Florida has morphed into a broader focus on computer sciences.

"People from the industry came to use and said coding is really a subset of computer science," said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, sponsor of this year's foray into the subject.

As a result, she amended SB 1056 to promote computer science courses and encourage teachers to become certified in the area, and not just in the niche coding field. (See the amendment here.)

"The big problem we have in the state is, some of the most sought after jobs are in computer science and computer programming," Passidomo, a Naples Republican, said while introducing her bill to the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.

Jessica Hooper, government affairs director for Project Lead the Way, called the legislation critical to putting Florida students on a competitive path for the future.

"Florida is far behind the rest of the country when it comes to computer science education," Hooper told the panel.

Already, she said, half of all U.S. jobs use computers, and that percentage is expected to rise. Yet most Florida students use computers primarily for word processing and presentation creation.

"Florida needs digital developers … not solely digital consumers," Hooper said, encouraging support for the bill.

The measure, as amended, would require percentages of schools in each district to offer computer science courses. It would offer financial incentives for teachers to hold certification in the field.

It's a different approach than the past efforts that aimed to push computer coding lessons by allowing students to count them as foreign language courses.

The bill flew through committee without debate or opposition. Its next committee stop is PreK-12 Appropriations, which Passidomo chairs.