In the six years since I signed the Computer Science Initiative legislation, the success of it has far exceeded my expectations, and I’d like to talk about a new report that offers some bold recommendations for the future of computer science education in Arkansas.
The report is the work of the Arkansas Computer Science and Cybersecurity Task Force, which I established in December 2019. The team, which included representatives from education, business, industry, and technology, and philanthropic organizations, formally submitted its report to me this week, which I released at a news conference on Thursday.
In 2015, the first bill I signed as governor required every public school in the state to offer at least one computer-science course. Arkansas was the first state to do that.
National publications and technology organizations such as Wired magazine and Code.org have noted our success. The executive director of Computer Science Teachers Association told Education Week that no other state “has done more than Arkansas. They have a really strong, multifaceted plan that is well thought out. … The state is far better off than anyone else.”
But we can’t rest on our success. In the spirit of our past initiatives, the task force recommends two dramatic changes. The first is that Arkansas require students to have at least one computer-science credit to graduate. The second is that every school in Arkansas employ at least one certified computer science teacher. I am fully committed to these recommendations.
I also shared news about other initiatives that will give even more students access to high-speed internet. As part of its Project 10Million, T-Mobile is donating 18,000 internet access devices to Arkansas students. The company also is donating 100 gigabytes of data also at no cost to eligible households. Combined with the 20,000 devices the state is providing through CARES Act funding, more than 38,000 will be distributed around the state.
I also announced that we will increase high-speed broadband capacity to K-12 school districts, charter schools, and education cooperatives from the current 200 kilobits per second per user to at least 1 megabit per second. That is five times faster than current speeds. Arkansas will be one of the first states in the nation to meet the new standard of 1 megabit per second per user. The upgrade to the network should be completed by July 1 of next year.
This has been an important week for Computer Science Education in Arkansas. We have developed a national reputation for our computer science initiatives, which is nice. But our motivation and the payoff is the high-quality opportunities we are creating for our young people.