Seven bills to benefit our future economy


The California Chamber of Commerce is not shy about drumming up opposition to bills they believe would harm the state's economy and label those legislative time bombs as "job-killers."

However, they are also strong advocates for proposals that would enhance our once-golden state and put it back on a path of prosperity and profits.

When they find a piece of legislation they like, they offer their unvarnished advocacy.

This month, there are seven Chamber of Commerce-supported bills that would generate enrollment in computer science education. Commerce from tech represents an important growth sector in today's economy, and these bills would put California on the right track toward increased employment and a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

Computer science involves the study of computers and algorithmic processes, principles, hardware, applications and their impact on society. By studying computer science, students are prepared for careers in a number of different sectors. These include manufacturing, health care, retail, the arts and financial services.

Students learn critical thinking skills as well as how to create - not just use - the new technologies.

According to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of every two science, technology, engineering and mathematics, aka "STEM," jobs in the country will be in computing. That represents more than 150,000 new jobs annually that pay significantly more than the national average. It is all thanks to the STEM classes - classes we are supporting and encouraging in our own Antelope Valley classrooms.

An educated and skilled workforce means developing programs in middle and high schools that provide pathways for students seeking technical careers.

We do a certain amount of great stuff here in the Valley, whether it is area school robotics programs, the Palmdale-based Aerospace Academy or the Antelope Valley Union High School District's SOAR programs. We need as many programs as possible that aim for high achievement. Heaven knows we are having to do too much remedial work from high school on.

The Antelope Valley Union High School District is growing STEM programs. Tehachapi and Ridgecrest schools are also on it. Eleven high schools in the Aerospace Valley are on board.

Antelope Valley College and the AV High School District have collaborated to establish the SOAR High School. SOAR stands for "Students on the Academic Rise," and it functions as a way to introduce college-level curriculums to students still enrolled in high school.

The results are the proof in the pudding: SOAR High School was named one of California's Top 10 schools for two consecutive years. An estimated 25% of this past year's graduating class received associate in arts degrees from Antelope Valley College while simultaneously receiving high school diplomas.

The rest of California needs to catch the wave. Computer science classes across the state are treated as "electives." There are no state standards on computer science to ensure curriculum is rigorous and comparable to classrooms from the Bay Area to San Diego. There are also no clear ways for teachers to earn computer science credentials.

This has to change if Californians want to hold onto the world's 10th-largest economy. The following bills demonstrate a states commitment to education that should lead to larger pools of qualified workers.

In the state Senate:

SB 1200 creates an incentive for more students to take computer science courses in high school by requesting the University of California and California State Universities establish guidelines for high schools and satisfy undergraduate admissions requirements.

In the state Assembly:

AB 1530 requests the state Superintendent of Public Instruction develop a model curriculum for computer science to help teachers expose students to it earlier. This would increase the chance they would foster an interest and continue their studies as they advance in their education.

AB 1539 would require the State Board of Education to adopt content standards to provide guidance for teaching computer science in grades seven through 12.

AB 1540 would permit the governing board of a school district to allow high school students to take one or more computer science courses at the community college level.

AB 1764 would make it possible for school districts to count completion of a computer science course as a math course that meets graduation requirements.

AB 2110 instructs the State Board of Education to incorporate computer science curriculum into math, science, social studies and language arts frameworks.

ACR 108 would designate the week of Dec. 8 as "Computer Science Education Week."

Seven bills. Seven opportunities to strengthen our kids' minds and our economic futures. These are laws we would gladly see coming out of Sacramento. They could signal jobs and opportunity. Time to get to work.


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