- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas’ budget woes are leading to cuts to a program designed to boost the number of high school students taking technical education courses and earning industry credentials.

School districts this year will get less than half the monetary incentives they expected from the 2012 initiative, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/1SVcJyv ) reports. The initiative provides incentives for each high school student who graduated with an industry-recognized credential in high-need occupations, such as welders, nursing assistants and computer support specialists. The legislation also called for the state to help pay tuition and transportation costs for high school students enrolled in career and technical education at a community or technical college.

But the Kansas State Department of Education said in a memo last week that the per-pupil payment for students who obtained certificates in certain high-demand fields will be “approximately $450” for the just-completed school year. That’s down from a $1,000 per-student incentive promised in the initial legislation.

“It’s been a great program. It’s been highly successful,” said Dale Dennis, deputy education commissioner. “But the appropriation was just reduced due to the state’s fiscal condition.”

Dennis said the incentives were cut because “the money wasn’t there” in the final appropriations bill lawmakers approved earlier this month. The appropriation for CTE incentives to districts was cut from $1.5 million to $750,000, he said.

“This was a program - a good program - started by the state with a vision and a promise,” said Gail Jamison, president of the Goddard school board. “It is effective, and we are making strides. But you don’t start a program and then get three or four years into it and then drop your support.”

The legislation was one of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature education initiatives, and over the past two years, he has visited several school districts to present checks for the incentive portion of the bill.

State law now requires districts to pay at least half the cost of certificate test fees, though many pay the whole amount. Rita Johnson, senior director for workforce development for the Kansas Board of Regents, said the reduced incentives still should be more than enough to pay those test fees, most of which cost less than $100 each. A few tests, such as those for computer-related industries, can cost up to $300, she said.

Educators say the initiative seems to be working, with the number of high school students in Kansas enrolled in at least one career or technical education class for college credit growing from 3,870 in 2012 to 10,390 this year.

“We’re excited that there has been such a tremendous response to this initiative,” she said. “We’re very encouraged, and we all want to do anything and everything we can to keep the momentum going.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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