This article appeared in the Hutchinson News
House advances technical education measure
By Chris Green
Harris News Service
TOPEKA – House members gave first-round approval Monday to a bill establishing a new board to oversee improvements in work training programs.
Some critics said the board wouldn’t be effective or that it could rob community college boards of local control.
A final vote on the measure could come today. Should it pass, the bill would advance to the Senate.
Backers of the proposal said they hope the authority will ensure vocational classes receive more attention from state higher education officials.
The board, recommended by a state commission earlier this year, would be responsible for coordinating technical education programs statewide. It would also find ways to boost the number of graduates entering the workforce.
Although he wasn’t sure the board would be effective, House Education Chairman Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, said it was important to improve technical education in the state.
“Occasionally, we have to try something different than what we’re doing.”
However, some members questioned how the change would affect community colleges, which provide 77 percent of the state’s technical education, along with Washburn University.
Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, said she was concerned the authority could overrule the decisions of local trustee boards.
Winn offered an alternative plan that would’ve created a new Board of Regents vice president to supervise technical education instead. But that amendment fell 65-54.
Rep. Ben Hodge, R-Overland Park, also questioned why lawmakers weren’t holding the Board of Regents responsible for improving technical education.
“I don’t think we need to be adding extra government,” Hodge said.
House members made several changes to the bill including expanding the size of the authority from seven to nine members. They also called for the authority to end in 2010, unless lawmakers vote to extend it.
The bill also requires the state’s five technical schools, including Salina Area Technical School and Southwest Kansas Technical School in Liberal, to develop plans to become technical colleges or affiliate with other post-secondary institutions by July 1, 2008.