Work Ready Kentucky scholarship bill heads to Senate on 86-11 House vote

03/17/2016 09:25 PM

FRANKFORT — The House of Representatives has passed legislation on Thursday that would cover community and technical college tuition for most Kentuckians entering such programs straight from high school.

House Bill 626, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, passed on an 86-11 vote.

Majority Democrats included $33 million for Work Ready Kentucky scholarships in its version of the budget, which passed on a 53-0 vote Wednesday with Republicans declining to vote on House Bill 303.

HB 626 would create the Work Ready Kentucky program in the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, with students who enroll in Kentucky Community and Technical College System after graduating high school and GED recipients 19 or younger eligible for the scholarships. The program would cover up to six semesters, and students would be required to maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average.

Stumbo and other lawmakers who supported HB 626 said the legislation would address work readiness in Kentucky and help the state’s economy if enacted.

“Let me ask you this in terms of the cost,” said Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro. “Think about this a minute: What is the cost of providing a supplement to our young people to go to two years of community college as opposed to the cost of a lifetime of food stamps? Because that’s what’s going to happen. If we don’t invest in our young people so they can become productive members of society, they’re going to be dependent on society and our state for the rest of their life.”

Some Republicans questioned the 2.0 GPA requirement. Reps. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, noted that high schoolers must maintain a 2.5 GPA to qualify for Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship awards, and Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the lower GPA requirement in HB 626 would give some flexibility for students who struggle adapting to college and technical courses.

House Minority Whip Jim DeCesare offered a floor amendment, which failed to get the necessary 51 votes on a 46-12 vote, that would have created a Workforce Investment Fund Advisory Board.

He credited Gov. Matt Bevin with initiating such talks in the first-year governor’s proposal for a $100 million bond pool for workforce development projects, which was stripped from HB 303 in the House.

Stumbo said he could ultimately support DeCesare’s floor amendment if HB 626 comes back from the Senate with that included.

“I’m voting yes for this because I believe this particular piece of legislation has a lot of promise, especially since the gentleman from Floyd has so eloquently supported my House floor amendment if something should change over in the Senate,” said DeCesare, R-Bowling Green.

“And so I’m voting yes to get it down to the Senate where maybe we can work and make this good bill a great bill.”

Stumbo said he had no qualms with DeCesare’s proposal, which was ruled out of order because it wasn’t germane to the KCTCS scholarship bill.

“I went up to him afterwards and told him, ‘I’ll work with you,’” Stumbo said.

While DeCesare’s floor amendment spelled out specific guidelines for the board, Stumbo said he never heard details of projects that would be funded through the $100 million bond pool from Bevin’s administration.

“Really it was the cart before the horse,” he said. “What should have happened is the enabling legislation that would have directed how the money’s being spent and set up a structure for the spending, then you put the funds into that fund, and they would be distributed according to the directives.”


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