Secretary says proposed dual-credit program growth, $100M bond pool will help Education and Workforce Development Cabinet's mission in biennium

02/24/2016 03:56 PM

FRANKFORT — Ensuring more Kentuckians attain education and training beyond high school is a top priority for Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner, who told lawmakers today that Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed biennial budget would help make gains in those areas.

Heiner presented his cabinet’s two-year spending proposal to the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Primary/Secondary Education on Wednesday, saying that thousands of open jobs remain unfilled throughout Kentucky.

The cabinet’s budget received two key appropriations in Bevin’s proposal: a $100 million bond pool for workforce development projects and $64 million from the Kentucky Lottery to expand dual-credit programs in the state’s high schools with assistance from the state’s postsecondary institutions like the Kentucky Community and Technical College System and to boost apprenticeships and scholarships for technical certifications in core industries.

Heiner said the $64 million will help students enroll in dual-credit programs, and he said he would eventually like to see the programs extended to every high schooler in the state. He estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 Kentuckians would benefit if the biennial budget proposal becomes law.

Without resources, he said such an initiative “stumbles just from lack of funding.”

“In this current budget, the dollars that had been swept out of the lottery, that had been swept from the lottery into the General Fund that are now being kept in education, some $62 million over the biennium, looking for a path to make those dollars available to the school districts, some of those dollars available to the school districts to ramp up dual enrollment with whichever partners they choose to partner with,” Heiner said in his testimony.

Rep. Kelly Flood, chairwoman of the subcommittee, said the reclaimed lottery proceeds of about $30 million per year had been used to fund scholarships for low-income Kentucky students before the General Assembly began diverting that money for other budget purposes in recent years.

“So what we’re doing now is potentially redirecting it to some priorities that you have in skills training for students,” said Flood, D-Lexington. “… It doesn’t necessarily mean that the kids who will get it are kids who are low on money. That could be something that is a part of the package.”

Asked about Flood’s comments after the meeting, Heiner said “huge gaps” exist in helping students of all stripes once they graduate high school.

“What we need is a program that has every student in Kentucky connected to postsecondary education, and we plan to do that by dragging colleges and universities down into the high school and in a partnership so that every student has already succeeded in postsecondary by the time they graduate,” he said.

Heiner also addressed proposed spending reductions for higher education institutions and how that might impact the initiatives he outlined for his cabinet.

He said he hopes postsecondary schools will share the vision of dual-credit partnerships that he presented on Wednesday.

“My hope is that institutions look at their budgets, they put the priority on areas that’ll help both the maximum number of individuals and families and help move this economy forward in Kentucky,” Heiner said. “This is a tough economic time for us, so this capital is in a very difficult financial situation, but we need to invest in the areas that’ll allow us to fill the jobs.”

On the $100 million bond pool, Heiner said those funds would be granted to help improve facilities and equipment at workforce development centers as well as provide first-year marketing aid.

A seven-member panel will likely serve as an advisory board to distribute those dollars, he said, noting that Bevin has proposed reducing the local match from a minimum of 25 percent to 10 percent of workforce development bonds received “to make sure we have equity across the state that these dollars are available.”

“We want to make sure both students and adults know the kind of careers that are available in Kentucky today, so that’s why we’ve included that first-year marketing,” Heiner said.

The budget will hinder aspects of the cabinet, Heiner said.

For example, Kentucky Educational Television will face possible reductions in digital services and the Department for Libraries and Archives and Education Professional Standards Board will try to implement efficiencies to handle Bevin’s proposed 4.5 percent cuts in the current fiscal year and 9 percent over the biennium.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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