- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers are considering a new bill that would encourage public school students to learn computer science in high school.

The Senate Economic Development Committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would count computer science as a math, science or practical arts credit required for graduation rather than treating it as an elective. The bill already passed in the House but still needs a Senate committee and full Senate vote, the Kansas City Star reported .

Kansas City tech advocates said the bill is a way to address the area’s tech worker shortage.

Tech companies have employed tens of thousands of workers in the Kansas City area, according to KC Tech Council’s most recent industry report. The organization also found data indicating that there are more than 2,800 tech job openings in the area.

“If we’re ever going to get close to closing the skills gap, we’ve got to flood our future pipeline,” said Ryan Weber, president of KC Tech Council.

Some school counseling groups are concerned the bill may affect college-bound students.

Missouri high school students need three years of math to graduate, which is oftentimes what colleges and universities in the state also require. But many universities don’t consider computer science to be a math class, said Sharon Sevier, director of advocacy for the Missouri School Counselor Association.

“If this bill goes through, it is entirely possible that the acceptance of our students could be compromised when they go to apply for college,” Sevier said.

Democratic Rep. Judy Morgan voted against the bill. She’s concerned that students will be underprepared for college entrance exams if they don’t take the standard number of math classes.

She said she thinks colleges could be receptive to the idea, but that they need to then accept computer science as a math course. Morgan said she’d like the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to consider the proposal and provide recommendations to lawmakers.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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