FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would count computer programming classes toward fulfilling foreign-language requirements in public schools.
The goal is to enhance programming skills, enabling more Kentucky students to land high-paying jobs in the growing computer industry, said Sen. David Givens, the bill's sponsor.
"Those opportunities are there," the Greensburg Republican said, noting that an estimated 1 million programming jobs will be available by 2020.
Kentucky isn't preparing enough students to acquire the skills to fill those programming jobs, Givens said.
The measure cleared the Senate on a 28-7 vote. The opponents remained silent during the discussion of the bill, which now goes to the House.
Expanding the definition of foreign languages to include computer programming would help more students squeeze programming courses into their schedules, Givens said.
Kentucky students are required to earn 22 credits to graduate high school, and 15 of those credits are set aside for such requirements as math, science, English and social studies, he said.
That leaves little room for students to take programming classes, Givens said. The bill would rectify the shortcoming by allowing programming classes to satisfy foreign-language requirements, he said.
"To acquire that depth of knowledge, we've got to find a way in this constrained curriculum ... for students to begin these areas of studies earlier in high school," he said.
By doing so, students could take higher-level computer courses as seniors, Givens said.
College-bound students are expected to take at least two foreign language credits, he said.
Traditional foreign language classes will remain a "vital piece" of high school curriculum, even with the broader definition to include computer programming, he said.
Sen. Whitney Westerfield said computer programmers play important roles in fueling the world's tech-based economy. He said it would be "silly" for Kentucky not to give students the option to gain those skills.
"That's where this world's going," he said.
The legislation is Senate Bill 16.