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Legislative task force will look into improving state’s technical schools ahead of 2020 budget session

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

A new legislative task force will delve into improving the state’s technical school system on both the state and local levels.

The Kentucky Department of Education passed a resolution in early February, calling upon lawmakers to form a task force focused on making structural and funding reforms in career and technical education in Kentucky ahead of the 2020 biennial budget session.  

That resulted in the formation of the Kentucky Career and Technical Education Task Force, which held its first meeting on Tuesday.

In his opening remarks, Committee Co-Chair Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, noted Kentucky keeps recruiting new companies to the state. “But we’re not able to provide them the workforce, because our kids are not getting the skills that they need.”

Sen. Mike Wilson committee co-chair, addresses panel members (Photo by Tom Latek/Kentucky Today

Another area Wilson wants to address is the two systems for vocational education that have existed since the 1990s, local Area Technical Centers and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which are funded differently.

“We’ve had studies on this,” Wilson told the nine-member panel.  “We’re going to look over those studies, and the recommendations of being one system, so there would be equity in funding.”

That includes a lack of a salary structure for instructors at the local Area Technical Centers.  

“Whatever each one wants to do, that’s what they do in hiring them,” he said.  “But these are folks that have high skills.”  He says that makes it difficult to hire and keep them.

KCTCS schools will also come under scrutiny by the committee, according to Wilson.  

“We have a very inflexible system when it’s centrally controlled. We’re much more able to be flexible when we have the local control to be plugged into local industries. As fast as computer programming and all these things are changing, robotics, we cannot stay up to date with a central system, in my opinion.” 

Wilson said his goal when the task force wraps up is multi-fold.

“We will have some recommendations that, if need be, we can have legislation that would address this and modernize our system, to make available to our kids the opportunities they need to have these careers ahead of them.”

“There should be opportunity for every single one of our kids. They should not be graduating college with boatloads of debt, with a degree but unable to find a job. To go to college for four years, have 30 or 40 thousand dollars of debt and can’t find a job with all these other high-skill jobs are available, is to me, un-excusable for our state.”


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