Computer science, technology training program proposed

The Education Committee considered a proposal Feb. 6 that would establish a statewide expansion program to recruit, train and support computer science and technology teachers.

Sen. Lynne Walz
Sen. Lynne Walz

LB1284, introduced by Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz, would require the state Department of Education to employ or contract with computer science specialists to develop and deliver computer science educator training for teachers. Such training would be accessible to all teachers in the state, including those seeking supplemental computer science certification.

In 2022, the Legislature passed the Computer Science and Technology Education Act, which created a graduation requirement of one course in computer science and technology for all public school students. Since then, Walz said she has heard from school officials — especially in rural Nebraska — concerned about their districts’ ability to fulfill the law’s requirements due to a lack of teachers with the necessary endorsements and insufficient funding.

“Only eight states require this as a graduation requirement, but 36 states provide funding for computer science and technology education,” Walz said. “Of the states with the graduation requirement, it is only Nebraska and North Dakota that provide no funding.”

The bill also would establish the Computer Science Technology Education Fund, which the department would administer. The fund would receive $1.5 million in state general funds for fiscal years 2025-26 and FY2026-27. Each year after, the state would match up to $500,000 contingent on private donations.

The program established under LB1284 would provide support for schools and teachers in the development of instructional plans that are consistent with the academic content standards for computer science and technology education adopted by the State Board of Education.

Finally, the measure would require the department to submit an annual report on the program to the governor and the Legislature.

Shaun Young testified in support of the proposal on behalf of the state Department of Education. Last fall, the department worked to develop computer science and technology content standards, he said, which the state board approved in early February of this year.

Young said Nebraska has a deficit of teachers with the knowledge and training to teach computer science and technology courses, and teachers who already are certified require ongoing professional development to keep pace with evolving technologies.

LB1284 would provide the tools needed to implement the new standards and provide teachers the training they need, he said.

Also testifying in support of the bill was LaShonna Dorsey. Speaking on behalf of the Nebraska Tech Collaborative and the Lincoln and Omaha chambers of commerce, she said technology is integral to nearly every industry. Providing computer education serves as workforce preparedness by ensuring students have the skills necessary to enter the workforce and drive innovation in Nebraska, Dorsey said.

“At its core, LB1284 recognizes that computer science and technology education are not mere luxuries, but essential building blocks for our childrens’ success and our state’s prosperity,” she said.

Laurel Oetken also offered support for the proposal, speaking on behalf of Tech Nebraska and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Nearly all companies in Nebraska are tech companies in some way, she said, and for the state to compete nationally it will require active partnerships with educators to equip the future workforce.

“Investing in computer science education not only benefits individual students and educators,” Oetken said, “but it contributes to economic growth and [the] technological advancement of our state.”

No one testified in opposition to LB1284 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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