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Congressman Randy Hultgren

Representing the 14th District of ILLINOIS

Letter to the Editor: We must teach more computer science

Apr 24, 2014
In The News

Chicago Sun Times

People around the country will celebrate the biennial USA Science and Engineering Festival at the end of April. The festival spotlights our federal, state and local grassroots efforts to advance STEM education and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, architects, and even manufacturers.

As a member of the Science, Space and Technology Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and a co-chair of the House Science and National Labs Caucus and the STEM Education Caucus, I hear every week how crucial it is to support science, technology, engineering and math education with a long-term cohesive vision. Included in this is the recognition of the role that computer science plays in every job and career — now and in the future. Computer science has become essential to training our next generation of innovators.

Currently in Illinois, Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses count only as an elective course in high school. While students are required to take math and science courses throughout their careers, curriculum hasn’t caught up with the need in our rapidly advancing economy for students literate in computer coding and software design and development. While geometry and trigonometry are still important, computer science is a “math” for our future.

I was pleased to hear of the efforts of state Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) and state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) to offer legislation that would give students the option to fulfill their math or science requirement with computer science beyond Algebra II.

Their bipartisan efforts (House bills 3699 and 3695) would allow schools the option to replace a higher-level math or science core requirement with an AP computer science course. Students would still be required to complete three years of math courses, but could select computer science to meet graduation requirements.

I am a firm believer that local school districts know what’s best for their students. Local families and PTAs understand the needs of their children, and we should remove the federal and state barriers standing in the way. That’s why this is voluntary — not mandated.

Democrats and Republicans in the Illinois House alike have gotten the message that almost all jobs and careers today require computer literacy and STEM fields specifically require a solid foundation in computer science.

On April 1, the Illinois House put partisanship aside to get something done that will matter for our children’s future. Just this week, state Sen. Pam Althoff (R-McHenry) signed onto the bipartisan H.B. 3695. It is up to state Sen. Terry Link (D-Gurnee), chief sponsor of the Illinois Senate bill, to get this across the finish line.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are all essential elements of the future competitiveness of this nation.

Inspiring our students in Illinois to increase their computer literacy and to enter STEM fields is the job of parents and educators, and this movement is another step in the right direction.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14)