By Vice President of Politics and Policy David Edmonson

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has upended the daily routines and normal pace of work. From working from home to distance learning, tech has been at the forefront of this new and exciting frontier. As a senior leader in one of our member companies, Microsoft’s Brad Smith, recently said, we have effectively seen “two years of digitization in two months.” It is against this backdrop that a requirement for high school computer science courses is vital for Texas and for our nation.

With global economic leadership at stake, education and workforce development are more critical than ever. TechNet supports policies that help prepare our students to be a successful part of a global, interconnected, and technology-driven economy. Last session, we, along with many other members of the Computer Science For Texas (CS4TX) coalition, supported Texas HB 963 (Bell) in order to move the remaining high school Technology Apps courses into the Career and Technical Education section of the code so schools offering these courses receive weighted funding at the state level. Our thought was that this would further incentivize school districts to offer these in-demand courses and create a pipeline of students with strong computer science and coding skills. HB 963 successfully passed the legislature and is now being implemented by the Texas State Board of Education.

However, under a proposal before the State Board this week, districts wouldn’t be required to offer a computer science course, which means fewer would. That would lead to fewer students taking computer science courses, which in turn would lead to fewer computer science majors and graduates who enter the job market. The long-term effect would be to make Texas less competitive in that global, interconnected, and technology-driven economy.

Instead of taking a step backward, TechNet argued that Texas should position itself as a forward-looking state when it comes to computer science education. Continuing to require computer science courses will prepare students for a future where remote work is more common and tech-driven innovation continues to be at the forefront of economic growth. During the pandemic, we’ve seen tech support essential front-line workers, families who need to work from home and distance learn, and provide solutions to our most pressing issues.

Fortunately, the State Board listened to TechNet’s arguments, which were echoed by the full CS4TX coalition. The proposed language was amended in committee, and under the proposal that is now moving forward, Texas high schools must continue to offer introductory computer science classes to their students. This will increase the number of students who learn coding and computational thinking skills, making them ready for the jobs of the future.