A measure to require students to take a computer science course prior to graduating high school passed through the North Carolina House Education Committee Feb. 14.

Under current law, high school students must take three science courses to graduate — biology, physical science, or earth science. House Bill 8, Computer Science Graduation Requirement, would make earth science an optional elective and substitute computer science as a required course for graduation.

The bill requires the N.C. State Board of Education to assemble a list of approved computer science courses by July 1, 2023. The changes would kick in for the 2024-2025 school year.

“Seventy-percent of jobs will require computer science in some form or fashion. If we don’t teach it to our children, we are doing a disservice to them but not having it,” said Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston.

Democrats objected to eliminating earth science as a requirement.

“As a mother of two high school students currently, I would just add that I think that eliminating one of our science requirements is a mistake,” said Rep. Julie Von Haefen, R-Wake. “There is great value in having three science credit. I’ve seen that in my own children. And eliminating one of those is going to be a detriment to our students.”

Also on Tuesday, the House Education Committee approved House Bill 11, Schools for the Deaf and Blind. The measure would change the governance structure for three state-run schools, two of which serve deaf students and the other serving blind students.

Currently, the governor appoints the five members who oversee the three schools. The bill would change that to two appointments by House Speaker, two by the Senate leader, and one by the State Board of Education — removing all power and oversight from the governor.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill in 2022, claiming the bill “continues this legislature’s push to give more control of education to Boards of Trustees made up of partisan political appointees.”

The bill would change “the top-down management that we’ve had in the past from Raleigh for those three schools would be changed over into this new, more local approach,” said Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke.