Promoting a new law that provides free tuition to Kansas high school students who take technical education courses, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback touted the future of career and technical education (CTE) today in Overland Park. Stakeholders from industries and higher education institutions, as well as Kansas Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee and Commerce Secretary Pat George, joined Brownback for the news conference at the Regnier Center at Johnson County Community College.
The new law is aimed at encouraging Kansas students to earn an industry-recognized certificate in a high-need occupation, as identified by the Kansas Secretary of Labor in consultation with the Kansas Board of Regents and the State Department of Education before they graduate from high school. It provides students free tuition for technical education courses taken at nearby technical and community colleges. The program also establishes an incentive for school districts to get students involved in CTE education by giving districts $1,000 for each student who graduates from that district with certain recognized CTE certificates.
“This program is a win for students, for schools and for industry,” Brownback said. “These high school graduates will have a sought-after skill that industry really needs. They will have the ability to start a career right out of high school making a decent wage or to work during college to limit their debt – all without paying a penny in tuition. The free tuition will provide community and technical colleges with more students. The incentive will give school districts an additional reason to encourage their students to seek CTE certification. And Kansas companies will get more highly-skilled workers.”
Dr. Terry Calaway, president of Johnson County Community College, said the new law will strengthen the strong relationships school districts and community and technical colleges have to provide Kansas employers with well-trained workers and to arm parents and counselors with information and incentives to steer children toward higher education opportunities with careers waiting on the other side.
“Community colleges play a significant role in the development of a well-trained local workforce, which is the ultimate goal of the legislation,” said Calaway. “It also strengthens the collaborative mechanisms between the state’s K-12 districts and its community college, which also benefits the state.”
Steve Waddell, owner of I Support Learning Inc., praised the new law as an effective way to improve an already exceptional technology workforce in the Johnson County region and throughout Kansas.
“This law gives our schools funding they can use to increase student enrollment for high demand careers,” Waddell said. “Kansas has taken a leadership role in providing innovative ways to grow careers and our economy. I believe this bill gives our educators a tool to help our state lead the country in an economic recovery.”
Dr. Gene Johnson, superintendent of the Shawnee Mission School District, emphasized the impact of career and technical education for students and the new opportunities made available to them by this law.
“We are looking forward to increased opportunities for our students which will give them options that they may not have had in the past,” said Johnson. “These opportunities will increase an already strong relationship between Johnson County school districts and Johnson County Community College.”
As part of Senate Bill 155, the CTE program passed unanimously out of both chambers and was signed into law by Brownback in May. The new law took effect on July 1.