C Spire pushing computer education legislation

Published 8:34 pm Friday, February 7, 2020

Home-grown C Spire, one of the last big locally-owned cellular phone companies in the country, has been a great corporate citizen for Mississippi. From their roots in southwest Mississippi, Jimmy and Wade Creekmore have built the company into a tech powerhouse. Hu Meena and other family members are carrying on the next generation. The company continues to grow, providing thousands of high-tech jobs for our state.

As a result of its growth and its need for tech-savvy employees, C Spire has realized the urgent need for better computer and software training for Mississippi students. Problem is, only 47 percent of Mississippi public high schools teach computer science. As a result, Mississippi is falling further behind. C Spire has put countless hours and over $3 million into growing computer science education in Mississippi, including BaseCamp Coding Academies, C Spire Coding Challenges and C Spire Software Development Pathway.

Now C Spire is proposing the state legislature pass a new law requiring every Mississippi school to teach computer science. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and many other states have already taken this step.

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Details of the tech initiative include:

• Mississippi should develop a statewide plan for computer science education.

• The Mississippi Department of Education should appoint a statewide supervisor of computer science education.

• Mississippi should require all high schools to offer computer science in the 2021-2022 school year and all K-12 schools by 2022-2023

• Mississippi should establish clear certification pathways and budget adequate funding for computer science teacher professional development.

Computing is a fundamental part of our daily life and professional development. American manufacturers now post more jobs for software developers than production workers. Increasingly, machines are doing the labor, while humans need to be able to program the machines. The average salary for a computing occupation is $72,039 compared to the average salary of $39,420. Over 1,000 computing jobs remain unfilled in Mississippi today. 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.

Mississippi needs to be working harder to catch up with the rest of the nation. If we ever want to land a big tech firm in Mississippi, our young people must be equipped with computer skills. C Spire should be praised for providing leadership in this initiative. You can visit ourMSfuture.com and learn how to tell your legislature to support this much-needed legislation.

Wyatt Emmerich is a columnist, writer and publisher in Jackson. He can be reached at wyatt@northsidesun.com.