The San Antonio Express-News originally published this column by Executive Director for Texas and the Southeast at TechNet, Servando Esparza, and TAB CEO Glenn Hamer.
Everything is bigger in Texas. It is a motto that lets folks know that we aren’t afraid to be bold, take chances and lead the nation. But that’s not the case when it comes to investing in our state’s talent pipeline.
Despite a growing tech sector and an ever-expanding digital economy, Texas is being outspent in computer science education by the likes of Arkansas, Florida, Utah, Alabama and California. Our state Legislature has an opportunity to right this wrong by investing $10 million to launch the Computer Science Pipeline Initiative.
Only 47 percent of Texas public schools offer a foundational computer science course, and only 27 percent of Texas high schools have a certified computer science teacher. This is leaving many of our kids behind, without the tools and training needed to succeed in today’s modern economy. From Marfa to Marshall, Texans do not have access to high-quality computer science instruction that can put them on the path to a high-paying career. And that’s a big problem.
The Computer Science Pipeline Initiative would recruit new computer science educators through professional development and stipends. It would increase computer science proficiency for students in Texas public schools, particularly in our rural communities that are often left behind. Through the initiative, Texas educators will have access to 25 regional computer science hubs that will recruit and coordinate online and in-person education and prepare them to teach computer science.
By supporting a statewide network connecting local schools and institutions of higher education to computer science programming, the Computer Science Pipeline Initiative would increase computer science proficiency for students across our state’s public high schools. This will create more equitable opportunities for all students, regardless of background, and help Texas build a well-educated workforce that is a nationwide leader well into the 21st century.
Recently, more than 45 young coders joined the Computer Science for Texas, or CS4TX, coalition’s Coding at the Capitol event and wowed lawmakers with their ability and innovative spirit. With the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the modern economy, these students could one day go to work at any company, build the life-saving technology of tomorrow, or join our armed forces to protect our nation against cyberattacks around the globe. They embody what it means to have a strong talent pipeline, and as our state’s strongest asset, those who educate them need every resource available to ensure their success.
The Legislature has made significant investments in Texas schools and teachers, most notably through House Bill 3, which overhauled the state’s school finance system. By funding the Computer Science Pipeline Initiative, Texas lawmakers can make sure that we have a well-trained workforce that’s ready for the economy of today and tomorrow.
It’s time to bet big on our future, our students and our educators.