NEW ORLEANS (AP) — High school students working to earn free college tuition through Louisiana’s TOPS state scholarship program could take computer coding instead of a foreign language under a bill passed Monday amid complaints efforts to revive the French language could be undermined.
The measure passed in the final hours of the 2022 session in Baton Rouge. It goes next to Gov. John Bel Edwards. The Senate passed the final version of the bill 34-0 on Monday but in the House, where 53 votes are needed to pass a bill, the measure squeaked by on a 54-41 vote.
Rep. Mike Huval opened his argument against the change by greeting House members in French.
Huval, a Republican from Breaux Bridge, said Cajun French was once suppressed in Louisiana schools. He extolled efforts to revive the language in the past few decades that have met with some success.
“What we can’t do is lose the advances that we’ve made for the language that was brought back,” he said.
Proponents won out with arguments that computer coding skills are badly needed in the state. “Coding is a workforce issue in our state,” argued Rep. Jason Hughes, a New Orleans Democrat. Another New Orleans Democrat, Rep. Aimee Freeman, said coding is a good language alternative for dyslexic students.
TOPS, formally called the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, covers college tuition costs for Louisiana high school students who complete a certain curriculum, reach a minimum grade point average and earn at least a 20 on the ACT college entrance test.
Louisiana was founded as a colony of France. And southwest Louisiana became home in the 1700s to descendants of French settlers who were exiled by the British from the area now known as Nova Scotia, Canada.