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Legislators push computer science for high school students

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High school students would be required to take a computer science class to graduate, under a bill that passed a North Carolina House committee Thursday.

Some state lawmakers think every middle and high school should offer the class. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Erin Paré of Holly Springs, says students who don’t learn technology skills in school could be left behind.

“Seventy percent of our future workforce is going to require a baseline knowledge in computer science,” she said during Thursday’s meeting of the House State Government Committee. “So this isn’t a matter of if we should do this, it’s a matter of how we do it.”

An earlier version of House Bill 8 called for computer science to replace a required earth science class. But some said earth science is equally important. That provision is out of the proposal in this latest form.

Now the computing class would instead replace an elective credit in courses like art, foreign language or music. Students would still need a total of five elective credits to graduate.

Amber Davis, a lobbyist with the nonprofit that advocates for computer science in K-12, said about 275 schools in North Carolina aren’t currently offering computer science classes.

“We believe that every student is capable of learning computer science,” she told legislators.

If the bill becomes law, the requirement wouldn’t take effect until the 2026 school year. That would give schools time to hire teachers.

The bill still needs approval from the House Rules Committee before it goes to a floor vote. Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt supports the measure.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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