Editorial: Support this education plan

The state’s career and technical education initiative has proved successful and deserves funding.

One of the most successful programs of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tenure is the “Excel in Career Technical Education Initiative,” which provides funding for high school students to take technical and career education courses at the state’s technical and community colleges.

Now, as Brownback looks to build on the success of the program, the Legislature should support the governor’s efforts by fully funding the program.

The Excel in CTE initiative was launched in 2012 with the passage of Senate Bill 155. The bill essentially provided high school students with free tuition for career and technical education courses at local community colleges and technical schools. Additionally, the legislation authorized $1,000 incentive payments to school districts for each student who earned an industry recognized technical certificate in a key occupation area.

The program has been enormously successful, growing from 6,101 students and 44,000 credit hours in the 2012-13 school year to 10,600 students and 85,000 credit hours in 2016-17. It has been so successful that costs of the program now exceed funding.

In 2013, funding for the program was $13.2 million and costs were $12.7 million. Last year, the Legislature provided $20.8 million in funding, but costs for the 2016-17 school year were $24.5 million. Current allocation for 2017-18 school year is $20.8 million. Costs are expected to be $28 million.

Now, Brownback is seeking to expand the program by encouraging school districts to partner with community colleges and technical schools so that high school students can earn dual credit when they take career and technical courses. The governor is seeking an additional $7.3 million per year to fully fund the program.

The state’s community colleges are leery of taking on the additional education load without the additional funding. “As we move into this legislative session, waiting to see what happens with the Legislature, we just don’t want to have too many programs that are being put out there and not have enough funding to be able to successfully run all of them,” Ben Schears, president of Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, told the Kansas Board of Regents.

One third of the students who participate in the CTE courses in high school complete a certificate or degree while in high school, and two-thirds enroll in post-secondary training after graduating from high school. These are significant statistics, especially given the current shortage in post-secondary training to meet Kansas’ future workforce needs.

The Excel in Career Technical Education Initiative is one of the most important education programs implemented in Kansas in the last decade. It incentivizes students and school districts to pursue post-secondary education and training that ensures students earn increased wages and that Kansas’ future workforce needs are met.

Lawmakers should support Brownback’s proposal for full funding to meet the program’s expanding needs. It’s a worthwhile investment for the state.