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Legislative Updates — February 28, 2020

LITTLE ROCK – An Arkansas success story that is attracting national attention is the expansion of computer science classes in public schools over the past five years.

In the 2015 session, a bipartisan group of legislators approved Act 187, the governor’s proposal to make computer science courses available in every Arkansas high school. Since then, enrollment has jumped from about 1,000 students in computer courses in 2015-2015, to almost 10,000 students this school year. More than 1,000 students took multiple computer science courses.

The number of female students has risen 1,179 %, from 223 to 2,852. This is significant because it demonstrates our commitment to breaking obsolete stereotypes about gender roles.

Advanced placement tests are one area in which the commitment to improving computer science is evident. In the 2017-2018 school year, 31 students scored a 5, which is the top level. A year later

Arkansas students showed a 29 % increase, with 40 students scoring a five.

Over the same period, Arkansas had a 30 % increase in students scoring a 4 on computer science advanced placement classes, from 46 to 60.

According to a state Education Department report, there are 500,000 computer jobs available nationwide, but only 64,000 college graduates to fill those jobs. The situation in Arkansas is similar. In 2015 there were 1,750 available computer jobs, with an average salary of $68,900 a year, and only 250 computer science graduates to fill them.

Within the field of computer science, an especially fast growing area is cybersecurity. Median hourly wages for occupations in computer fields is about $38 an hour, while within the specific field of cybersecurity it is almost $46 an hour.

Public colleges and universities in Arkansas are adding 22 cybersecurity programs to their curricula.

Developing robots and applications for mobile telephones are other career paths for graduates of computer sciences.

Grants are available for teachers to add computer science to their certification, and last year more than 5,200 teachers, counselors and principals received some level of computer science training.

More than 225 teachers are certified in computer science, up from about 20 in 2014.

The increase in certified teachers means that the vast majority of students in computer science classes are in a classroom and have face-to-face time with teachers, rather than in virtual classes.

According to the Education Department report, “that’s great news, because even tech-savvy students need accessible, invested teachers.”

Testing for Lead in Drinking Water

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the Education Department $450,000 to

test for lead in the drinking water of schools and pre-schools.

Public health experts say that children are more vulnerable to the negative health effects of lead in water, such as behavioral problems and slowness in learning. The EPA says that there is no acceptable level for lead in water.

Lead can get into drinking water from corroded links and faucets, and from the solder used to connect segments of pipe.

Municipal drinking water is tested for lead, but Arkansas has not specifically tested schools for lead in years. In 1986 Congress prohibited lead in new pipes and fixtures that are used for human consumption.


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