Gov. Larry Hogan announces tech education initiatives for Maryland public schools

Gov. Larry Hogan plans to ask state lawmakers to set standards for computer science training in public schools, one of several steps he says will help create a more tech-savvy workforce in Maryland.

The Republican governor said Thursday that he’ll work with teachers, school system officials and business leaders in the coming months to develop goals for what children should be taught and a timeline for working the lessons into the curriculum.

He plans to propose legislation on the computer science standards in the next General Assembly session, which convenes Jan. 10.

The curriculum legislation was among several computer science training initiatives Hogan announced during a State House news conference. He called his plan ACCESS: “Achieving Computer Science Collaborations for Employing Students Statewide.”

The governor said the state needs a well-trained workforce for the increasing number of technology jobs — and needs to address the “shocking lack of gender diversity” in the technology field.

Hogan said unless current trends are reversed, only one-fifth of technology “jobs of the future” will be held by women in 2025.

“At a time when companies across the country are desperately in need of a skilled computing workforce, more than half of the population could be left behind,” Hogan said.

Del. Eric Luedtke, who chairs a House of Delegates subcommittee on education, said he’s interested in hearing more about Hogan’s ideas for legislation. Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat and former school teacher, said there’s “broad agreement” on the need to teach computer science and coding in schools.

But he cautioned it’s usually better left to teachers and education experts to set curriculum standards, not elected officials.

“You don’t want politicians writing curriculum,” he said.

A representative of the state teachers union was also cautious.

“When it comes to implementing education policy, the devil is in the details, and the involvement of classroom educators is essential,” Adam Mendelson, spokesman for the Maryland State Education Association, said in a statement.

Mendelson said the union’s “door is always open” to discuss ways to best help students.

Alec Ross, one of several Democrats vying for a chance to take on Hogan in the gubernatorial election next year, welcomed the governor’s interest in computer science education. Ross announced a plan in May to require every school to offer computer science and coding classes at a cost of $80 million over the next 10 years.

“I’m glad to see my ideas are catching on,” Ross said in a statement. “And this proves that Marylanders need a leader who knows how to innovate — not just copy and paste from others.”

The Maryland State Department of Education already is working on updating curriculum standards for technology, based on recommendations from the Computer Science Teachers Association, a national organization that advises school systems on K-12 educational computer science standards.

State and county education experts are working on how Maryland schools can modify their lessons to meet the new standards, said William Reinhard, a state schools spokesman. The governor’s bill would likely help carry out that work, he said.

“We think it’s a terrific idea,” he said.

Hogan also signed an executive order directing a state cybersecurity task force to study ways to grow the state’s technology industry and to promote opportunities for women and minorities in the field. That report is due in June.

The governor said he also plans to commit $5 million in next year’s state budget for grants to local school systems. The money would be used to train teachers in computer science and to buy equipment for classrooms.

And he also said the state will partner with the nonprofit Girls Who Code to create a “Governor’s Club Challenge.” Girls Who Code is a national organization that promotes computing skills for girls. Its website boasts membership of nearly 40,000 girls nationwide.

The Governor’s Club Challenge will work with school and business leaders to open new Girls Who Code clubs in the state. Maryland already has 23 Girls Who Code clubs.

pwood@baltsun.com

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