- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky Senate voted Friday to carve out a bigger role for computer programming in public schools by getting more computer science teachers into classrooms and boosting network capacities at schools.

Senate President Pro Tem David Givens took a different approach with his latest bill to beef up computer programming instruction. His measure passed the Senate on a 33-0 vote and now goes to the House.

Givens, R-Greensburg, dropped his push to have computer programming classes count toward fulfilling foreign-language requirements in public schools. That version - which passed the Senate last year but died in the House - had stirred a backlash from foreign-language advocates, including teachers.

His new approach tries to increase the number of computer science teachers and calls on local and state education officials to beef up network capacities at schools.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, said computer programming has mushroomed into a lucrative part of the economy, with an increasing demand for programmers.

“This is something that’s only going to get bigger,” Westerfield said. “And it’d be silly, it’d be dangerous, for us not to get our kids up to speed on this topic and train them. It’s just as important as everything else they’re learning right now, because we’re existing more and more … in digital worlds.”

Givens cited studies indicating the U.S. faces big shortages of programmers to meet demands.

His bill would allow adjunct computer science instructors to be certified. It also calls on education officials to start teacher academies to foster professional development among computer science instructors.

It seeks to put computer science in line for a share of science and math advancement funds and professional growth development funds. It also would make computer sciences a key part of the state’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.

For the second straight day, the Senate passed bills on a day the House was out of session due to the record-breaking cold that hit Kentucky in the wake of this week’s heavy snow.

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The legislation is Senate Bill 16.


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