The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) is launching the Computer Science Innovation Grant Program, which will reimburse computer science programs for the cost of curriculum, software licenses, professional development and student incentives, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Sept. 5 during the kickoff of his Fall 2018 Computer Science Tour.

Schools will compete for grants of $25,000, $20,000 or $7,500.

The Computer Science Innovation Grant Program is a new opportunity for after-school coding clubs, robotics teams, and other extracurricular computer-science programs at Arkansas public K-12 schools to compete for up to $250,000 in total reimbursements for the purchase of curriculum, software licenses, professional development, student incentives and more.

“In 2015, when I signed legislation that required all public high schools to offer courses in computer science, I made it clear that there was still work to be done,” Hutchinson said. “Since then, Arkansas has become a national leader in computer science education, and we aren’t done yet.”

This announcement was among three major computer science announcements the governor made at Genoa Central Elementary School at Texarkana, the first stop of his fall coding tour.

The governor also announced that the state will provide each of Arkansas’ 528 fully certified computer science educators a membership to the Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA). The CSTA is a nationally renowned resource for educators. A CSTA+ membership will provide benefits such as discounted online courses, support for computer science teaching certifications, free teaching aids such as robots and circuits and other resources for educators.

Arkansas is the first state in the nation to provide this CSTA+ membership to its computer science educators since CSTA announced this option in July of this year, according to the release.

“CSTA is the best place for computer science teachers to continue their professional development and we’re thrilled that Gov. Hutchinson is providing Arkansas’ CS teachers with CSTA+ membership,” said Jake Baskin, executive director of CSTA. “Arkansas is one of our strongest chapters and we’re proud to help strengthen the local CS educator community.”

Finally, Hutchinson announced that the Arkansas teacher license renewal will be waived for Arkansas’ certified computer science educators.

“Today’s announcements are the result of our continued commitment to keep creating opportunities that will equip our students for a 21st century workforce,” he said. “These announcements are three more reasons why the State of Arkansas continues to lead the nation in computer-science education.”

With the latter two announcements, Arkansas becomes the first state to provide this kind of support to its fully certified computer science teachers, according to the release.

“The Arkansas Department of Education Office of Computer Science is excited to continue supporting students, schools, and educators as the state enters year four of the Governor’s Computer Science Initiative,” said Anthony Owen, Arkansas Department of Education Chief State STEM Officer and State Director of Computer Science Education. “Today’s announcements again demonstrate the state’s commitment to support dedicated teachers and innovative programs across Arkansas.”

ADE will release a commissioner’s memo with application information for the Computer Science Innovation Grant Program and the new benefits available for Arkansas’ fully certified computer science teachers.