November 13, 2013

Milwaukee Courier

Legislatively Speaking: Computer Science is the Future

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. As your senator, I cannot stress the importance of schooling, as much of my success is rooted in the products of my education and the guidance of my parents. When I consider the areas I can have the most impact on as your senator, I always think about education because it starts in our schools. It is in the classrooms of these schools where the first seeds of inspiration and a greater thirst for knowledge are planted in our children’s minds. For many reasons, it is essential that Wisconsin schools offer the highest level of educational programs in country; I want every child who graduates from high school in the state of Wisconsin to have a diploma that is worth something.

My colleagues in the Wisconsin Legislature and I have been working on passing Senate Bill 51, which increases the mathematics and science credits required for graduation. This bill seeks to raise the standard of the completion of two credits in each discipline, to three. In addition, the bill specifies that one mathematic credit can be obtained through successfully completing a computer science course. This bill increases the expectations of every student and encourages the integration of computer science into the culture of our public schools.

Computer science is the future. According to Code.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the availability of computer science programs in the United States, computer science is America’s untapped opportunity. By 2020, the computer science field is expected to have one million more jobs than students. Let me repeat that, in just over 6 years, our country will have one million open jobs to students with Computer Science degrees. If those numbers alone do not sell you, consider this: computer science is the highest paid college degree in the country, with computer science jobs growing at two times the national average.

Our country is undeniably still facing the consequences of the 2008 economic recession. Unfortunately, many of these consequences fall at the hands of college graduates who cannot find good jobs. These students are not only harmed by the unavailability of jobs, but also by the significant debt they incurred while obtaining their degrees. I want to change the prospects for Wisconsin students. I want everyone to know of the opportunities waiting for their children in the computer science field. I want every student in our classrooms today to consider a bright future as a computer scientist.

Unlike many of the powerful numbers stated earlier, minority representation in the computer science field are bad, and are largely reflective of the lack of Computer Science education in our schools. According to Code.org, only fifteen percent of Computer Science students are women, and only eight percent of CS students are people of color. Furthermore, nine out of ten schools do not even offer computer programming classes in the United States, and high schools in only thirty-seven of our fifty states count computer science classes towards their math or science requirements.

I genuinely believe that through increasing computer science education in Wisconsin public schools, our children will have the opportunity to pursue an education that is not only challenging, but also a good investment. Senate Bill 51 has the potential to place Wisconsin as a leader in computer science education. “Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the world of knowledge” (proverbs 23:12). As always, I am here to serve!