Despite initial pushback, a bill that would broaden access to computer education in Missouri high schools, could be gaining momentum, said Ryan Weber.
If passed, the legislation would increase STEM awareness in public schools and require districts to count computer science courses as math and science credits, the KC Tech Council president and an advocate for the bill said.
A previous incarnation of the measure was vetoed by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson in July, Weber said.
“It took some wind out of our sails,” Weber said. “We were concerned about waiting until the following year.”
Parson vetoed the bill after reviewing the fine details of a provision that the governor said favored a specific provider of online STEM courses, Weber explained.
“This is a long-term necessity,” he said of opening access through the legislation. “The impact [of a veto] won’t immediately be felt, but without strong STEM and computer science education programs Missouri will lose companies and struggle to attract others.”
Sustaining an adequate talent pool in Kansas City was a key driver of the KC Tech Council’s May Tech Specs report, which found net gain of 11,000 workers in the metro in 2017, but 3,000 jobs remained unfilled.
Weber understands the governor’s position on the previous version of the bill, he said, and is thrilled to see Parson make STEM education a priority of his term, which began after former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned in late May.
“He’s been a real leader on these issues and employers have taken notice,” Weber said.
The latest incarnation of the bill, pushed by state Sens. Doug Libla and Travis Fitzwater, passed the Missouri Senate Friday on a 28-1 vote during a special session to reconsider bills previously vetoed by Parson. Weber testified on behalf of the new legislation.
“There is clear and overwhelming support,” he said. “We all hope the governor will sign the bill this time.”
Similar legislation has already been passed in 40 other states.
“Developing STEM skills ideally should be part of a student’s entire school career,” said Martha McCabe, executive director of the KC STEM Alliance. “The breadth and scope of this field is tremendous. You have not only traditional software development but also networking, hardware repair and smart technologies now offered by many of our metro high schools.”
Great progress today in the #moleg special session toward passing a critical STEM workforce bill! Thanks to @GovParsonMO @travisfitzwater @jeanielauer @HendricksonKA @codeorg @RyanWeberKC @KCTechCouncil @RyanCStauffer pic.twitter.com/0mb8HYRYOM
— Missouri Chamber (@MissouriChamber) September 11, 2018