Gov. DeSantis okay with substituting computer science over traditional math and science classes required for graduation

High school graduates

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday touted key computer science initiatives and said he’d soon sign legislation related to computer science education – though the bill includes other issues that may or may not be popular with students, families and math and science teachers.

The 65-page bill, sent to the governor on Friday for review, includes everything from changing graduation requirements to allowing controversial full-time “adjunct” teachers to head K-12 classrooms.

DeSantis made remarks at Ridgecrest Elementary School in Largo, where the Pinellas school is hosting a summer camp in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The governor made clear that he wants schools to embrace computer science and expose students to this kind of technology.

Several top state lawmakers attended as well as a representative from Code.org, a Seattle-based nonprofit that works to expand computer science in schools. Lobbyists representing Code.org in Tallahassee advocated for HB 7071, which includes computer science initiatives and other efforts. That’s the bill DeSantis is reviewing.

A Microsoft Corporation representative also attended the DeSantis event. Microsoft also had lobbyists in Tallahassee during the session, advocating for computer science and other issues.

In an unusual move, the HB 7071 legislation allows students to take Algebra 1 over two full years, getting two graduation-related credits for Algebra 1 instead of one credit. The bill also allows students to use a computer science credit – instead of a math credit – for graduation requirements in math. That computer science credit can’t be substituted for Algebra I or geometry.

Likewise, a student could use a computer science credit for a science graduation requirement. That substitution cannot be Biology 1, and the state will have to make sure the computer science credit is “equivalent in rigor to the science credit.”

State law says computer science “means the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, hardware and software designs, applications, and their impact on society, and includes computer coding and computer programming.”

DeSantis, a public school graduate from Florida, expressed support for the computer science credit substituting for traditional science classes – though the physics crowd might balk.

“I took classes that I enjoyed…like physics. Other than trying to keep my kids from falling down the stairs in the Governor’s mansion I don’t know how much I deal with physics daily,” the governor said.“You cannot live in our modern society without dealing with technology or computers in your daily life,” DeSantis said.

The governor also praised the Legislature for approving $10 million to train, recruit and retain computer science teachers. Some of the money would be set aside for bonuses for teachers in computer science.

DeSantis is reviewing that $10 million and the rest of the $91.1-billion state budget for 2019-20 that the Legislature sent to him Friday. He expects to veto at least some of the budget items approved by the House and Senate.

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