Lawmakers gave first-round approval on March 8 to a bill to ensure Nebraska students receive computer and technology training before they graduate from high school.
LB1112presented by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney, would require every public school district to include computer and technology education in the curriculum of its elementary and middle schools beginning in the 2024-25 school year.
Additionally, districts would require students to take at least a five-credit high school course in computer science and technology before graduation. Districts could deliver the course in a traditional classroom, blended learning environment, or other technology-enabled format.
Computer and technology education would include knowledge and skills related to computer literacy, educational technology, digital citizenship, information technology, and computing.
McKinney said LB1112 would ensure students are prepared for 21st century jobs and help address a labor shortage that is hampering the growth of Nebraska technology companies.
“Technology and IT [are] is no longer limited to coding courses that only a small handful of students choose to take as an elective,” he said. “Instead, technology and digital literacy [are] embedded in every industry our students choose to work in.
McKinney said dozens of nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions have developed free course materials for school districts and a professional development program for teachers.
The bill would require each district to provide an annual status report to its school board and the state Department of Education, which would include student progress in computer and technology courses and other information. .
LB1112 would also require the State Board of Education to adopt measurable academic content standards for teaching computer science and technology according to math or science standards.
A Education Committee the amendment, passed 34-0, would allow the board to also adopt the new standards under the Career and Technical Education Standards. It would also clarify that the graduation requirement would only apply to public schools.
McKinney introduced an amendment, passed 35-0, under which the graduation requirement would begin with the 2026-27 school year. It would also allow students to take a one-semester high school course in computer science and technology to meet the requirement.
Senator Tony Vargas of Omaha supported LB1112. He said Arkansas, Mississippi and other states have adopted similar measures aimed at increasing the number of tech workers and addressing the underrepresentation of minorities and people from low-income backgrounds in the workforce. the technology industry.
“It’s a step we should have taken years ago,” Vargas said.
Senator Sterling Julie Slama also supported the bill. Although many Nebraska school districts already offer computer and technology classes, she said, LB1112 would help extend that opportunity to students in rural areas and those who don’t have a computer at home. House.
“Computer science is a basic life skill these days,” Slama said, “and we’re dooming our kids to failure if we don’t ensure that every child in a Nebraska public school has a chance to learn those skills.”
Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue said she was concerned the bill would create an additional requirement for Nebraska school districts without also providing additional funding.
Henderson, Sen. Curt Friesen, said he was hesitant to make a computer and technology course a graduation requirement. The state Department of Education is in a better position than the legislature to decide whether such education should be included in the K-12 curriculum, he said.
Senators voted 33-0 to advance LB1112 to select the file.