When it comes to computer science education, Maine is way behind. The good news – if you want to call it that – is that many other states are, too.

But that is changing rapidly, and if Maine wants its students and companies to be competitive, it has to get moving.

Maine is one of just six states that haven’t followed any of the nine recommendations from the Code.org Advocacy Coalition, a computer science education advocacy group.

The recommendations show states how to create and support rigorous K-12 computer science education, and states are catching on. When the coalition first issued a report, in 2013, just 14 states had enacted even one of the recommended policies, but five years later 44 states have put in place one or more.

States are taking action because they recognize how critical computer science education is to the future of their economies and the lives of their students. Computer literacy is becoming essential for workers across a broad spectrum of fields, and students who choose computer science as a career path will be in high demand by employers.

There are now three jobs available for every graduate with a computer science degree. That’s half a million open positions, with double that expected by 2020. It is a rapidly growing field; those jobs are the No. 1 source of new wages nationwide. In Maine, there are more than 1,000 open computing positions, with an average annual salary of more than $75,000.

Offering computer science in K-12 schools not only gives students the foundation they’ll need for most 21st century jobs, but also allows students with real talent in the field to recognize it early, and spurs them to pursue computing after graduation. Students who take a computer science course in high school are six times more likely to major in the subject in college.

More and more students are getting that opportunity – in five years, the number of high schools nationwide offering Advanced Placement courses in computer science doubled. In Maine, however, just 30 high schools offered a course as of 2016, comprising 21 percent of schools that offer any AP classes.

Neither the importance of computer science education nor the alarming lack of it in Maine has gone unnoticed. Two Maine nonprofit organizations, Educate Maine and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, have worked with Code.org to train middle and high school teachers, and last year the Legislature passed a bill, over the objections of the Department of Education and without the signature of Gov. LePage, to establish a task force on the subject.

The recommendations in the task force’s report, issued in January, mirror many of those proposed by Code.org. The report shows that while Maine is lagging behind, there are schools here that are demonstrating how to integrate computer science appropriately into a curriculum. It shows how the state can build on the resources and experience already here.

Every school district and policymaker needs to listen – computer science is just too integral to our future economic well-being. We are quickly approaching a time when every student who graduates without some knowledge of computing will be left behind, and every college class that graduates without enough computer scientists is a drag on the economy.