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Missouri Governor Vetoes Bill to Boost High School Computer Science

The effort, backed by tech-titans Amazon and Apple, was aimed at boosting STEM studies.

(TNS) — The Kansas City tech community’s hopes of boosting computer science among Missouri’s high schoolers have been dashed — at least temporarily — by a veto from Gov. Mike Parson.

A bill backed by tech heavy-hitters, including Apple and Amazon, passed the Missouri House and Senate this session. Supporters sought to encourage high school students to take computer science courses by requiring that schools count the classes as a math, science or practical arts credit rather than treating it as an elective. The bill also aimed to boost awareness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields.

Parson vetoed the bill earlier this month.

“While I fully support the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and making our state’s students aware of career opportunities in those fields, I cannot approve of the program’s provisions as written,” Parson said in his veto letter.

In the letter, Parson said a portion of the bill requiring the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to pick a provider for online STEM courses favored one particular vendor, which he did not name.

Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, sponsored the bill and said he was disappointed to see Parson veto it because computer science education is important.

“It’s very concerning to me considering we are 18 years into the 21st century, and according to those who testified on the bill both in the House in the Senate, IT companies that talk about the unfilled positions they have — 10,000 here in the state of Missouri,” Libla said.

However, Libla said, if the bill did favor one vendor, he supports Parson’s veto.

Libla said he wouldn’t try to override Parson’s veto but he plans to bring up the bill again next year.

“That will be probably the first bill I pre-file,” Libla said.

Ryan Weber, president of the KC Tech Council, said Parson’s veto came as a “complete surprise.” In a statement to supporters, Weber said tech advocates cannot rest in their disappointment.

“Missouri’s children deserve education that prepares them for Missouri jobs and allows them to be competitive with students from other states,” Weber said. “In fact, 46 other states have passed legislation to broaden computer science education, and the students and employers in those states are already reaping the benefits. Missourians deserve that too.”

©2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.