Friday, May 30, 2014

Engrossing legislative updates for CA Computer Science

Last evening I sat in on a meeting of the San Diego Chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA). We met in the San Diego Super Computer Center. In case you aren't all that familiar with the CSTA they are a very active national group of Computer Science Teachers (primarily in K-12) along with supporters and friends of K-12 CS education throughout education, government and industry. Their advocacy work for inclusion of CS throughout K-12 is impressive. They also publish periodic reports on the state of CS Education throughout the country. One of the most recent is "Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U. S." which paints a painful picture of the crazily complicated state of certification for would be computer science teachers.

At times there is news to be optimistic about and I heard some of it last night. Jason Weiss, a representative from the office of California State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins gave the group a legislative update on 6 bills of interest for CS education in the state. As you may or may not know, depending upon how much you pay attention to the political process of passing bills, the system at the state level in many ways mirrors the process at the federal level. Both chambers of government have to pass a bill; one, then the other, and if amendments are made the bill goes back and forth to be resolved. Or perhaps it dies a quiet death for one of a variety of reasons. Eventually, if all goes well, a bill pops out of the system, perhaps like a champagne cork, and heads to the Governors office to be signed (or not).

Of the six bills, (CA AB1764, CA AB1530, CA AB1539, CA AB1540, CA AB2110, CA SB1200) most are making good progress.

They talk about a bill being "engrossed". Most of these bills were engrossed. I don't know who came up with this word choice; believe it or not it means that a bill is in a certain stage of that bouncing back and forth. Specifically, it means the bill has come out of (escaped?) from the chamber that initially filed it and it is on its way to the other chamber. Considering that amendments have often been incorporated, perhaps "engorged" would be a better word.

Most of the bills are doing well so far on their journey:

CA AB1764 would allow 3rd year Math credit to be awarded for Computer Science. This bill exited out at the end of April without opposition. How nice! (I originally wrote "passed out" but that has potential for far too many amusing interpretations)

CA AB1530 would include CS in the K-6 curricula. This bill exited out May 27th also without opposition. Moving right along...

CA AB1539 Sets content standards for computer science. Jason Weiss wasn't sure of the status of this bill as it was being considered yesterday afternoon, but from my wading through the weeds of relevant web pages, it appears to me to have passed along successfully.

Likewise, CA AB2110 which also relates to CS and content standards, continues its journey; gorey details can be found here, as does CA SB1200 which would establish standards for CS to be set that would be accepted by (presumably CA state) colleges and universities. It is on its way ....

And yes, that last one is SB1200 not AB1200. If you look up AB1200 you will find yourself reading about a vetoed bill related to recycled water in agriculture.

The lonely exception to this optimistic news is CA AB1540 which relates to high school students being able to take CS courses at community college. Jason told us the bill didn't get a hearing, which is better than being Vetoed I suppose. Officially, as they say,  it is "held under submission" (go figure). Jason told us this most likely has to do with a cost issue of some sort that needs to be addressed. So we haven't necessarily heard the last of CA AB1540. But for this year at least it languishes. It doesn't even get to claim to have been engrossed.

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