C Spire hosts meeting as part of grassroots campaign to get computer science in all K-12 public schools
Madison, MS /PRNewswire/ - Superintendents from public school districts across Mississippi are supporting efforts by C Spire to get more computer science education in classrooms for the state's 877 elementary and high schools.
The superintendents gathered in Madison earlier this week for a briefing on the latest developments of a grassroots campaign by the Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services that would require educators to offer computer science to all 465,000 students attending K-12 public schools.
"Computer science is as important in today's world as reading, math and science proficiency," said Dr. Phillip G. Burchfield, executive director of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents. "It's an integral part of our commitment and responsibility to prepare our students for the opportunities and challenges that they will face in a 21st century world that's infused with technology."
C Spire launched a comprehensive online, social media, TV and radio campaign earlier this month to encourage educators and public policy leaders to promote a stronger computer science foundation in the state. Despite strong support from parents and teachers, computer science is taught in less than half of the state's high schools and there are over 1,000 unfilled job openings in the state.
The legislation, SB 2284 by State Senator Scott DeLano, R- Biloxi and HB 1165 by Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, is awaiting action by the education and appropriations policy committees in both houses. The deadline for committee action on the two bills is Tuesday, March 3.
"We need computer science taught so all students have the knowledge, skills and abilities to successfully compete for the best jobs in the new digital economy," said Rob Smith, director of the Ross Collins Career and Technical Center for the Meridian Public School District, which is partnering with C Spire on a pilot program that will help students land junior software developer jobs after only one year of community college.
C Spire representatives provided an update on the status of the legislation and noted that the company is working closely with lawmakers to advance a bill that will help make computer science available in all schools by the 2022-2023 academic year. Some districts and schools have made progress and will not need to make changes while others will need to boost teacher training and update courses to the latest curriculum.
"We're committed to helping all of our schools overcome any barriers that might stand in the way of offering computer science in classrooms," said Carla Lewis, chief technology officer for C Spire and a leading proponent of the need for more computer science instruction. "We want this to work and that's why we are pushing for a phased approach so that all schools have enough time to make this a reality."
Mississippi students have made great strides in recent years, Lewis said. The state's high school graduation rates have climbed dramatically and improvements in elementary school reading and math scores have led the nation. "We've become a national leader in pushing higher academic standards, but we need to continue to strive so that all of our students have the opportunity to pursue their uniquely personal hopes and dreams."
Lewis said the Mississippi Department of Education and state's 151 local school districts need to continue their efforts in advancing computer science if the state hopes to inspire and educate more students on the academic and career opportunities and advantages associated with science, technology, engineering and math-related studies.
C Spire has been heavily involved in efforts to promote computer science education in Mississippi, investing over $3 million since 2015 in coding challenges, coding academies, pilot accelerated degree programs and other efforts designed to inspire and encourage students to consider pursuing academic degrees or professional careers in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.
Public support for more computer science emphasis in the classroom is strong. In a recent Gallup poll, 78 percent of Mississippi principals said they believe computer science is just as or more important than required core classes and 93 percent of parents want their child's school to teach computer science.
Computing jobs are the leading source of new wages in the U.S. with more than 500,000 unfilled slots nationwide and over 1,000 in Mississippi alone. The average salary for computing jobs is $72,039, almost double the statewide average and 67% of all jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields are in computing, according to Code.org, a non-profit advocacy group.
The grassroots computer science education campaign, which has reached all the state's 52 Senators and 122 House members, is part of the C Spire Tech Movement designed to move communities forward with a focus on broadband access, workforce development and technology innovation. To learn more about the need for computer science education in K-12 classrooms or to get involved in the "Mississippi's Future Can't Wait" campaign, text FUTURE to 50457 or go to www.ourMSfuture.com. Click here for more details on SB 2284 and HB 1165.
About C Spire
C Spire is a diversified telecommunications and technology services company that provides world-class, customer-inspired wireless communications, 1 Gigabit consumer Internet access as well as a full suite of dedicated Internet, wireless, IP Voice, data and cloud services for businesses. This news release and other announcements are available at www.cspire.com/news. For more information about C Spire, visit www.cspire.com or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cspire or Twitter at www.twitter.com/cspire.