Education needs the ‘tech surge’

digital economy

Editors’s note: State Sen. John Legg is a Florida certified teacher with more than 10 years of classroom teaching experience. He is also a school administrator and the current chairman of the K-20 Education Policy Committee in the Florida Senate.

During the White House’s much-maligned rollout of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama suggested that purchasing health care insurance would be as easy as ordering “a TV from Amazon.” However, the president found himself several weeks later admitting the Affordable Care Act website has significant problems.

The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services is supporting President Obama’s call for a “fix” by sending in the nation’s best and brightest for a “tech surge” to solve the implementation problems. But instead of deploying a tech surge to redesign a website, perhaps our nation’s future would be better served if a tech surge was deployed upon our educational system.

Our nation, indeed our global economy, has dramatically changed. Individuals that have digital and technological skills are, and will continue to be, in demand. America has a growing talent gap when it comes to workers with technology skills. Florida, meanwhile, ranks first in computer training, second in space and defense industries, third in engineering services, and fourth in Internet and telecommunications services, according to the 2012 Cyberstates report. In tech employment overall, it ranks fifth.

It is imperative that our education system equip Florida students with fluent digital and technological skills. Many of Florida’s business and education leaders have seen firsthand the need for policies and investment in technology in our schools.

Last session, the Florida Legislature prioritized technology as a critical component in making sure our students are college and career ready. Specifically, Florida adopted policies that promote elementary school cyber security programs; middle school digital arts certification; and industry certifications, many in the digital field, as a substitute for rigorous high school graduation requirements.

Florida, through the CAPE (Career and Professional Education) legislation, through an emphasis on industry certification, and through funding for our universities, such as the New College initiative in computational science, is committed to technology. The Florida State Board of Education supports a strong infrastructure that will meet the needs of changing classrooms. We are also working with our universities for short-term and long-term investments in technology.

We must continue to march swiftly to excellence by equipping our students with the skills they need to lead in an ever-increasing digital economy. Rather than salvaging a poorly designed website, we should direct this “tech surge” directly to our schools – and into the hands of our teachers and students.