Yesterday afternoon, the Senate voted unanimously to pass legislation that would allow students the option to take an advanced computer science class in lieu of certain math and science classes. Since its introduction in March, HB 170 has been a legislative priority for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
The Ohio Chamber views HB 170 as a workforce bill and less as an education bill. Employers in all industries have expressed concerns with finding skilled talent to run their networks, do their programming and even protect their systems from cyber threats. In fact, numerous computing based careers have been on Ohio’s “in-demand occupations” list year after year.
The Senate Education committee only made one minor change to the bill which did not impact the Ohio Chamber’s support for the legislation. An amendment was added that requires high schools to notify parents that taking computer science in place of algebra II could affect the student’s admittance into certain colleges or programs. That being said, it is important to recognize that many careers in the field of computing do not even require a four-year college degree. Businesses are recruiting some employees directly from high schools or career technical institutes.
Other states, including our neighbor to the west, Indiana, are considering legislation that would go even further than HB 170 by “requiring” computer science courses for primary and secondary students. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce strongly supports this concept, and has made it a key legislative priority as a way to address the increase of jobs in the tech sector and an emphasis on STEM related fields. HB 170 does not “require” a computer science class for all students; it merely provides an additional option for the school district and students. The permissive nature of the bill is vital as it preserves local control and prevents the legislation from containing an unfunded mandate. Both are issues to which the current legislature is highly sensitive.
The Ohio Chamber is excited about what the passing and enactment of HB 170 will mean for business and the positive impact it will have on the talent pipelines for employers.