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Florida Senate considers coding as a foreign language

By Kristen M. Clark, Miami Herald
December 8th, 2015

Proposal would require high schools to count coding courses toward foreign language requirements

codingA controversial plan to require high schools to offer computer coding courses and let students count them toward foreign language requirements was heralded Thursday as “novel,” “innovative” and “forward-thinking.”

But some members of the Florida Senate, as well as some local school district administrators, question how costly the proposal could be and how districts would pay for it when they are already strapped for digital resources.

Despite uncertainty around the myriad expenses that might come with implementing the proposal, Senate Bill 468 by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, passed the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee on Thursday by an 8-2 vote.

“We’re supposed to be transformative with education,” said Ring, a former Yahoo executive. “We’re trying … to recognize the reality of the world and give our kids a leg up.”

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said the plan screams “unfunded mandate” because of the course software, computers and specialized teachers and training that would be necessary to meet the bill’s requirements.

“I’m concerned that we’re going to take an approach that is forward-thinking and then fail in implementation,” Detert said.

Ring said the financial details would be handled in the education budget committee, which is the bill’s next stop. That panel is led by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who also supported Ring’s bill Thursday and offered two amendments on Ring’s behalf.

South Florida Democrats Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay and Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth voted against the proposal. Bullard cited the “severe unintended consequences” the legislation poses — similar to when lawmakers endorsed computer-based testing but schools lacked enough computers and ran into issues.

“It sings of the same problems we faced back then,” Bullard said. He also raised concerns that the plan could further disadvantage minority students and those who live in poorer areas, which already can’t afford decent computer classrooms, like his district in south Miami-Dade.

Next page: Is there room for both coding and foreign language?