Beginning in the 2024 school year, all Mississippi elementary, middle and high schools will be required to offer computer science courses.
This week, Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law “The Mississippi Computer Science and Cyber Education Equality Act,” which sets out a timeline for schools to incorporate the curriculum.
The law, which the authors say will likely designate $1 million of new state funding for the curriculum, garnered bipartisan support in the Legislature and was backed by C Spire, which committed another $1 million to help schools with teacher training and implementation of the curriculum.
“Getting computer science in all Mississippi classrooms represents a tremendous opportunity to give our young people exposure to the fundamentals necessary for their future success in the workforce,” said C Spire CEO Hu Meena.
Currently, more than half of high schools in Mississippi do not offer computer science courses, yet there are 1,519 open computing jobs in the state with an average salary of around $72,000, according to code.org.
Mississippi adopted standards for a computer science curriculum in 2018, but there was previously no requirement for schools to offer computer science courses.
“We look forward to continued collaboration with educators and other partners in the expansion of computer science offerings to prepare our students for postsecondary study and for careers in this rapidly-changing career field,” said Nathan Oakley, chief academic officer for the Mississippi Department of Education.
The legislation also includes scholarships for teachers to be trained and receive computer science endorsements through Mississippi State University’s Research and Curriculum Unit.
Sen. Scott DeLano, a Republican from Biloxi, authored the Senate version of the bill and worked with his House counterpart Rep. Kevin Felsher, also a Republican from Biloxi, to ensure its passage. DeLano said he heard from businesses coming to Mississippi that are in need of workers trained in these skills.
“We know jobs for the future are going to demand more and more computer science, so we want to make sure that all students have at least the basic fundamentals required to be able to take advanced courses or help assist with training in the future as they move through their career path,” DeLano said.
He and others are also in talks with other businesses in hopes of shoring up more support.