C Spire challenges Mississippi to step up computer science education

Published 10:24 am Monday, February 3, 2020

C Spire has long recognized the ripple effect of not having a strong computer science foundation in all its public elementary and high schools on the state’s economy, business expansion, workforce development and overall quality of life.

The company launched the comprehensive “Mississippi’s Future Can’t Wait” campaign on Saturday headlined by a powerful television commercial that dramatizes the harsh reality of being behind other states in the field of computer science.

The campaign shows how neighboring states who focus on computer science benefit from Mississippi not adequately preparing its 465,000 school age children and 1.7 million-member civilian workforce for the technology jobs of today and tomorrow.

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Today, only 47% of Mississippi public high schools teach computer science.

The goal of the campaign is to get more emphasis on computer science curriculum and education in the classroom.  One of the ways to do that is to pursue state legislation.

“C Spire has spent the last several years and millions of dollars working to ensure that our home state is not left behind and can compete for 21st century jobs and business in the new digital economy,” said C Spire CEO Hu Meena.

To accomplish its goal, C Spire has launched a grassroots lobbying effort at www.ourMSfuture.com to encourage Mississippi residents to contact the state’s 52 Senators and 122 House of Representative members urging them to pass and fund new laws in this session that require the state’s 877 K-12 public schools to include computer science courses in their curriculum beginning in the 2021-22 school year.

Meena said neighboring states such as Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas recognize the importance of K-12 computer science education and have enacted laws in recent years that emphasize instruction in computing and information technology and provide funding to expand curriculum and teacher professional development.

 “The common denominator with all of our neighbors and the rest of the country is that they understand the importance of computer science and the central role that computing plays in our daily lives, in commerce and virtually every occupation in our modern economy,” Meena said.  “They’re investing today so that their state and their people can have a brighter tomorrow. We need to do the same thing.”

Meena said critical thinking, computational skills and collaboration, which are at the core of computer science curriculum, are as essential to modern education as reading, writing and math.

“All of our children need these basic, fundamental skills to be successful in society and life no matter what profession or avocation they pursue.”

Public support for the “Mississippi’s Future Can’t Wait” push is strong, according to Meena.  In a recent Gallup poll, 78 percent of Mississippi principals said they believe computer science is just as or more important than required core classes and 93 percent of parents want their child’s school to teach computer science.

Computing jobs are the leading source of new wages in the U.S. with more than 500,000 unfilled slots nationwide and over 1,000 in Mississippi alone.  The average salary for computing jobs is $72,039, almost double the statewide average and 67% of all jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields are in computing, according to Code.org, a non-profit advocacy group.

The grassroots computer science education campaign is part of the C Spire Tech Movement begun in 2017 and committed to moving communities forward through technology with a focus on broadband access, workforce development and technology innovation.

To learn more about the need for more computer science education in K-12 classrooms or to get involved in the “Mississippi’s Future Can’t Wait” campaign, text FUTURE to 50457 or go to www.ourMSfuture.com.