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Minutes for HB2466 - Committee on Education

Short Title

Establishing the promoting advancement in computing knowledge act to increase the availability of computer science education in Kansas schools.

Minutes Content for Tue, Feb 1, 2022

Chairperson Huebert opened the hearing on HB2466 and asked Revisor Long to give an overview of the bill. 

Jason Long, Office of the Revisor, explained the details of the bill, in terms of policy and appropriations.  (Attachment 1)

Proponent Conferees

Chairperson Huebert testified as a proponent; noting how passionate he is about this bill and how many years he has been working on enacting computer science (CS) education for every student in Kansas. He named HB2466 the Promoting Advancement in Computing Knowledge (PACK) bill and encouraged everyone to join the pack.  He will be removing the graduation credit when the Committee works the bill because his primary focus is to encourage and advance this crucial area of education and the graduation requirement is an impediment for some stakeholders.  Many other states are moving ahead in this area and Huebert urged Kansas to join in that momentum.  He appreciated the efforts that have been made but was adamant that CS is vital to the future of Kansas students in order to succeed in a workforce where every job requires technological and digital skills.  (Attachment 2)

Professor DeLoach, Chair of the Computer Science Department at Kansas State University, spoke as a proponent, noting Kansas is woefully behind most states in offering CS training in K-12.  He gave an overview of the Computational Core Initiative; whose goal is to create a set of online CS courses that are focused on teaching students and training teachers. There are three parts: curriculum, instruction, and teacher preparation.  The student course only requires a laptop and good internet.  DeLoach described the online student course: the students are learning via computer, with a teacher present, and an expert from Kansas State available for consultation.  Dr. DeLoach shared his observation that a major challenge is getting teachers qualified and keeping those teachers.  One approach to this challenge is to train non-CS teachers.  Kansas State gave the program a grant to train teachers remotely through a six week summer program, and his department created a teacher's guide so that non-CS teachers can mentor students with confidence.  Another Cyber Pipeline goal is to create a pathway for Kansas students from high school through college.  The first two classes are equivalent to AP classes and could be given college credit.  Overall, he stated this program is effective, tested, economical, and a model for offering CS to schools who may not have CS teaching staff available.  He believes HB2466 is an important step forward and urged the Committee to support the bill.  (Attachment 3)

Dr. Flanders offered the support of the Kansas Board of Regents for this bill.  The bill provides $1 million in scholarships to both the Kansas Board of Regents and the State Department of Education.  He noted CS skills are necessary across all jobs. (Attachment 4)

Katie Hendrickson, a proponent representing Code.org, works with many Midwestern states and she spoke about what is actually being done in Kansas.  Although only 27% of schools in Kansas offer CS classes, there are bright spots.  57% of Kansas students have access to these courses.  The courses are presently offered in larger districts, in fact 75% of Kansas urban districts offer CS education.  She stated it is the smaller and more rural districts that struggle to find qualified teachers.   She recommended working with teachers in other disciplines and training them in CS, then those schools can offer at least one class per year.   Code.org strongly supports funding for K-12 CS education and supports HB2466.   Arkansas put $15 million into the initiative for CS and now almost their all schools offer CS courses. She urged the Committee to support the bill and provide Kansas students with the tools they need to thrive.  (Attachment 5)

Joy Eakins, a small business owner, has served on the Wichita school board and the Kansas State Department of Education CS task force.  She strongly supports HB2466 because CS in Kansas has been very slow and the state is falling farther and farther behind other states.  Eakins explained that students need basic understanding about how computers work.  Technology is affecting all areas of our lives.  Retail, agriculture, sports, health, and all other fields are changing because of advanced technology.  CS is not just coding or robotics.  It is so much more.  It is a language.  Understanding the basics are very important.  She urged the Committee to take this important step in the right direction.  (Attachment 6)

Ashley Scheideman explained her company, FlagshipKansas, and how they support tech education and she urged support for this bill.  Kansas has more than 5,000 tech businesses, and the median tech wage is over $71,000.  The CS skill set is in demand in all sectors.  All students benefit from this type of education, not just for future employment, but they will use these skills in every area of life. Computational thinking embedded in our curriculum seeds our ability to understand the technology that drives our lives.  (Attachment 7)

Ben Sebree, small business owner and member of FlagshipKansas, noted that entire industries are changing due to technological advances; in the same way work changed during the industrial revolutions.  CS skills are very important in all areas.  (Attachment 8)

Heather Morgan stated her organization of Kansas community colleges supports the bill and CS skills being taught.  She did recommend that scholarships not only be given to pre-service teachers but also to in-service teachers.  The possibility of adding an amendment to that end was discussed.  (Attachment 9)

Matt Lindsey, Kansas Independent Colleges and Universities Association, spoke in support of the bill but noted that Kansas non-profit schools should be included as eligible entities. Chairperson Huebert responded stating there is an amendment to this bill that will speak to that concern, to be added when the bill is worked in Committee.  (Attachment 10)

Sierra Bonn, student at Wichita State University studying Engineering Technology, also serves on FlagshipKansas, shared her personal story.  Not having access in K-12 to a CS course brought her to college immensely unprepared.  With effort she has made up the gap, but she is passionate about investing in students prior to college to prepare them for this era of innovation.  She strongly supports efforts like today's bill and urged the Committee to increase access for students and empower educators through dedicated funding in professional CS development.  (Attachment 11)

Neutral Conferee

Mark Tallman spoke as a neutral conferee on behalf of Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB).  They support many of the provisions but do have several concerns concerning the requirement that each high school offer at least one CS course.  There is not a clear definition of what CS course would meet this requirement, and this would need to be standardized in terms of subject and length of the course (single semester or full year).  Finding teachers in some areas is a challenge and the bill would need to authorize online options as valid.  KASB recommends the possibility of providing instruction in unique ways, such as internships, interdisciplinary programs, and other creative pathways to learning.  The graduation credit is an obstacle for school boards who have taken the position that the State Board of Education should set graduation requirements.  The State Board is presently revising high school graduation requirements.  The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) method is another complication when requiring a CS requirement for all students. KASB urges the Committee to remove graduation requirements and to note the general complications facing local schools at this present time, as schools are recovering from learning loss during Covid, improving reading success by third grade, expanding mental health services, and many other vital issues at present.  Schools are facing rising costs and severe staff shortages.  Additional challenges such as fulfilling the requirements of a bill such as HB2466 must be taken in context when planning to implement these important changes.   (Attachment 12)

Opponent Conferees

Dr. Brad Neuenswander stated that the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) supports CS education, and the only reason they are an opponent is the proposed need for students to pass a college level class in order to graduate.  Chairperson Huebert stated that he will work with the department to amend the bill, and work with the department to further CS in a manner that benefits Kansas students.  (Attachment 13)

Lauren Tice-Miller spoke on behalf of the Kansas National Educators Association (KNEA), as an opponent primarily because of section 5.  The KNEA strongly supports CS training but has concerns about how to find qualified CS teachers during a time of teacher shortages. They applaud the effort to invest $2 million in professional development but feel it is not enough.  They understand other states are investing $15 to $20 million.  Ultimately, they urge the Committee to have confidence in the KSDE, who has the constitutional duty and authority to determine curriculum requirements for school districts.   Chairperson Huebert responded stating he is going to amend the bill and recommend a change inserting the year 2023 as a deadline to offer classes.  (Attachment 14)

Jim Karlskint spoke on behalf of Jerry Henn and the United School Administrators (USA).  Although they strongly support CS classes, they are concerned with the graduation credit and with these decision being made by the legislature instead of KSDE which is tasked to recommend these types of curriculum and graduation credit changes to schools.   (Attachment 15)

Written Only Testimony:

Proponent

Andy Schlapp, Wichita State University (Attachment 16)

Jason Watkins, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce  (Attachment 17)

J. Kent Eckles, Kansas Chamber of Commerce  (Attachment 18)

Neutral

Patty Jurich, President, Kansas Parent Teacher Association (PTA) (Attachment 19)

Judith Deedy, Executive Director, Game On for Kansas Schools (Attachment 20)

Discussion

There were questions asked by Committee members about whether the KNEA considered CS classes fundamental, how many other states require CS for graduation, Individual Education Plans that might include CS classes, how many Kansas teachers statewide have an endorsement, AP test and course providers, the bi-partisan support that is possible with this bill, broadband access statewide, how to promote what is available, prerequisites for these courses, and statistics about STEM jobs. It was noted that Kansas presently has 4,700 open computing jobs while Kansas higher education institutions only graduate approximately 500 each year.

The Chairperson expressed his desire for the different branches of government to work together on this issue; as well as the business community and all the colleges and universities in Kansas.  He stated his willingness to remove impediments in the bill so that funding can move forward to support progressive programs like Kansas State's Cyber Pipeline.  He noted that he is not recommending one type of teacher training, but praised Kansas State for creating an effective, exciting model.  He urged everyone to work together and get this to the Governor and make sure our children have the preparation they need for a bright future.  With that, the Chairperson closed the hearing on HB2466.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:02 p.m. 

The next meeting will be February 2nd.