Florida needs ‘tech surge,’ not health website overhaul

During the White House’s much- maligned Affordable Care Act rollout, President Barack Obama suggested that purchasing health care insurance would be as easy as ordering “a TV from Amazon.” The president, however, found himself several weeks later admitting that the Affordable Care Act website has significant problems.
Now, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius 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. 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 global economy, has dramatically changed and individuals that have digital and technological skills are, and will continue to be, in demand. Consider:
America’s Talent Gap for Cloud/Analytical Big Data Technology Workforce Skills is projected at a 50- to 60-percent shortage of skilled workers by 2018.
According to the 2012 Cyberstate report, Florida is ranked: first in computer training; second in space and defense high-tech industries; third in engineering services; fourth in Internet and telecommunication services; and fifth in technology employment.
It is imperative that our education system equips Florida’s students with fluent digital and technological skills so they will be the leaders of this changing economy. Many of Florida’s business and education leaders have seen firsthand the need for policies and investment in technology in our schools.
During its 2013 session, the Florida Legislature prioritized technology as a critical component of making sure our students are college and career ready. Specifically, Florida adopted policies that promote elementary-school cyber-security programs and 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 Career and Professional Education Act, known as CAPE; an emphasis on industry certification; and funding for our universities, such as the New College initiative in computational science — is committed to technology. Additionally, the Florida State Board of Education supports a strong infrastructure that will meet the needs of changing classroom teaching and learning. We are 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 in order to lead in an ever-increasing digital economy. Rather than salvaging a poorly designed website, it is imperative we direct this “tech surge” directly to our schools and into the hands of our teachers and students.
State Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, is a Florida certified teacher with more than 10 years of classroom teaching experience. He is a school administrator and the chairman of the Senate K-20 Education Policy Committee.
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