The following of a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio address for the weekend of Feb. 6-8:
This week was our third full week into the legislative session. Our legislators have worked extremely hard and accomplished key milestones in our effort to create more jobs in Arkansas.
Our plan to offer computer science classes in every high school in Arkansas passed the House and is now on to the state Senate. This is exciting news for Arkansas's students and for the future of our state.
Over the next decade, it’s estimated that 70 percent of new jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math will be for computing professionals. In the past few years, nearly 3.7 million jobs in these fields have been left vacant.
The jobs are there. Unfortunately, we're not meeting that demand with the right education and training in our schools. This isn't just the case in Arkansas but across the country. Only about five percent of high school students in the United States take computer coding. By comparison, in China coding classes are mandatory.
Our plan would require high schools to teach computer science. It would create a task force to recommend course standards and find ways to prepare a high-tech workforce in Arkansas.
In addition, my balanced budget provides $5 million to create a Computer Science Initiative grant program. This money could be used to defray startup costs, train teachers and reward those teachers and schools that lead in technology education.
By offering computer coding in our classrooms, Arkansas will be ahead of the curve. We'll be a national leader in preparing our students for 21st century jobs — whether those jobs are in technology or manufacturing. Because, as we all know, computer skills are essential to the way we work today.
On Thursday afternoon, the House passed our bill to create the Health Reform Task Force. This is an important step in an effort to reform Medicaid. The bipartisan support for the task force is critical. It tells me that we’re of like mind about exploring innovative and cost-effective ways to make Medicaid work best for the people of our state.
Finally, last week was a good one for some 600,000 working Arkansans who'll see their income taxes go down thanks to our middle-class tax cut. I was pleased to sign this bill into law Friday and want to thank all of you who reached out to your legislators to support this tax plan. It's good for Arkansas's middle-class workers, and it's good for Arkansas. It's a positive first step in making our income tax rate more competitive with other states so that we can attract business and create jobs.
We're making great progress for the people of Arkansas, but we still have much work to do.