Brownback awards CTE funds to area districts

7/24/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

During a check presentation Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Sam Brownback touted the success of the first year of the Career Technical Education initiative approved by the Legislature in 2012, which is designed to fill the state's need for more workers in high-demand, high-wage jobs such as nursing, computer networking and information technology or welding.

"We've had nearly a 50 percent increase in enrollment in technical education classes in about a year's period of time. We initially budgeted $8 million. Now we're at $11 million and growing," Brownback said. "I'm tickled pink about how it's growing."

Under the program, the state offers to pay the college tuition of high school students who earn college credit in technical courses and certifications in a technical industry. It also rewards school districts with $1,000 for each student who earns a technical certificate in high-need industries identified by the Kansas Department of Labor, the state Department of Education and the Board of Regents.

At Tuesday's presentation at Garden City Community College, USD 457 Garden City received a check for $26,000, and USD 480 Liberal received a check for $21,000.

Rick Atha, USD 457 superintendent, and James Mireles, Garden City High School principal, credited teachers with the program's success.

"Where the rubber meets the road is the classroom teacher. If you want an analogy from the medical profession, they are our surgeons," Atha said.

Mireles said teachers work with students every day to help them get certifications.

"They work very hard. They're the ones down in the trenches and we appreciate their effort," he said. "Our vision for Garden City High School is to graduate every student in four years or less with the skills necessary for the 21st century; that's either college or career ready, and I think we're doing a nice job of that."

Brownback said he shares that objective.

"On graduation night, students are able to do one of two things: they're either ready to go to college, or they're ready to go into a career," he said.

In the first year of the CTE program, more than 5,800 students participated. The state will give out $703,000 to 111 districts.

Herb Swender, GCCC president, said more than 64 percent of jobs in Kansas require some level of advanced education or training. He gave kudos to Brownback for leading the charge to bring career and technical education back to Kansas. GCCC had more than 200 students who participated in the program's first year.

"These are the fruits of the legislative session in 2012. The law ... basically incentivizes students to advance their career in technical education," he said.

Kansas Secretary of Commerce Pat George said it was good to see southwest Kansas working together on workforce education.

"We have a critical need in a lot of areas of the workforce. Garden City Community College, Seward County Community College and Dodge City Community College are answering some of those needs," George said.

Brownback shared stories from students he has met while traveling around the state. In Concordia last week, he met a young man who earned a welding certificate and planned to go to Kansas State University in the fall. The young man told Brownback the certification will help him work his way through school.

Two weeks ago in Wichita, Brownback said he met four students who earned certified nursing assistant certifications, and three of them want to become doctors. The students told the governor that the CNA training in high school gave them practical experience they can use to make them better doctors by understanding the vital role nurses play in the medical system.

Brownback said the program may also help students reduce the amount of debt they accumulate in college, because they could find higher paying jobs, like a CNA or a welder, while in school rather than the typical minimum wage job.

"The biggest area of growth in debt in America today is student loan debt. It's a trillion dollars now and growing. A lot of kids leaving college have acquired debt they may never get paid off. We're saying let's see if we can help people work on through that," he said.

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