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Nebraska Bill to Make Compsci a Graduation Requirement

A legislative bill that recently passed the Education Committee would integrate computer science into elementary and middle school curriculums and require five credit hours for high school graduation.

computer science illustrated web graphic
Aiming to prepare students for the workforce of the future, Nebraska lawmakers are entertaining a bill that would make computer science technology education a requirement in K-12 schools throughout the state.

Legislative bill 1112, the Computer Science and Technology Act, was introduced by State Sen. Terrell McKinney in January and passed through the state’s Education Committee Feb. 22. If passed, the bill would require school districts across the state, beginning in the 2024-25 academic year, to include an element of computer science and technology curriculum in elementary and middle schools, as well as require one five-credit course at any point in high school in order to graduate. Language in the bill says the courses could range from a traditional classroom dynamic to hybrid or exclusively online. Each year, beginning around Dec. 1, 2025, school districts would be required to provide a status report showing the progress of students over previous school years.

Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers made the bill a speaking priority, McKinney told Government Technology. The Legislature will address the bill March 8 as part of three rounds of debates, the last of which is reading and passage, McKinney said. The bill sponsor believes it has “a lot of good support” to receive the 25 votes necessary to pass Nebraska’s 49-seat Legislature. The only hurdle McKinney sees to the bill’s passage is ensuring smaller school districts in the western part of the state are able to implement it without much money.

“The way the bill is written, it allows for a lot of flexibility for districts (such as) blended learning, online learning and things like that to make it easier for them to be able to do it and implement it,” McKinney told Government Technology. “I think we did our part in making sure it was a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Ultimately, the Computer Science and Technology Act is intended to prepare high school graduates for the future by assuring they all have a minimum level of technical knowledge and skills. McKinney noted that kids in Nebraska need to complete at least 200 high school credit hours to graduate, with 80 percent of those credit hours directed at core curriculum, including five credit hours for financial literacy — a requirement McKinney wrote into a bill in 2021 — and another five credit hours to be required in computer science. The bill also said financial literacy and computer technology will be integrated into elementary and middle school core curriculum, in social studies and mathematics or science, respectively. The state education board can update standards to any subject every seven years, the bill noted.

“I think this bill will begin to take our education system into the future and making sure we are preparing our youth for the future,” McKinney said.

McKinney said there are shortages in the labor force in technology and computer science industries, and he hopes that his bill will spark student interest in them. He said just having exposure to the subject will make it easier for a student when they enter the workforce. Best-case scenario, McKinney said, is to establish a technology hub in the state.

“If we show that as a state, we are prioritizing this type of education, tech companies could see us as an attractive market to open up a headquarters or another section of their offices in our state,” he said.
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.