A state task force is recommending all Arkansas high schoolers be required to take a computer science course in order to graduate.
The state’s Computer Science and Cyber Security Task Force presented its final report of recommendations to Gov. Asa Hutchinson Thursday. Speaking with reporters at the state Capitol, Hutchinson said that would require every public high school to have a computer science teacher.
“Because we’re seeing an inequity. You have our urban districts that are very aggressive in training the teachers and recruiting the teachers but in the rural areas of Arkansas you don’t have the same access and many of them are learning by Virtual Arkansas versus having a teacher in the classroom,” Hutchinson said. “We want to reduce that inequity, and that’s going to take money, that’s going to take an investment, it’s going to take the support from the Department of Education.”
Hutchinson said the requirement for high school students would be phased in over time, and would necessitate greater incentives for educators to obtain certification to teach computer science. Arkansas currently has 9,800 students taking computer science courses and roughly 500 teachers.
Also among the recommendations from the 35-member group are forming greater partnerships between the state and private technology companies, increasing computer science enrollment at institutions of higher education, and greater incentives to attract tech companies and workers to Arkansas.
Hutchinson said the state is also increasing the speed of broadband internet at all public schools to five times what is currently available at a cost of roughly $200,000 more than what the state currently pays.
“It will go from 200 kilobits per second to at least 1 megabit per second. This upgrade will be completed by July 1, 2021, and will allow students and educators to execute a media-rich curriculum that enhances online testing, digital content and remote instruction as needed,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson also announced wireless company T-Mobile is providing 18,000 internet hot spots to schools in the state, with free data for the first five years. He said the state is also awarding $7.5 million to strengthen high speed broadband internet access to eight rural communities through the Arkansas Rural Connect Grant Program.