FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill to expand the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship program cleared a House committee vote Tuesday.
The KEES scholarship gives students money for college, depending on their GPA and certain test scores, but only if that student pursues a college degree in Kentucky or at a school that has a program not offered by a Kentucky university.
House Bill 234 would expand the program to kids who want to learn certain trades.
“Most of the factories that you go and talk to are looking for skilled tradespeople,” Rep. William Lawrence (R-Maysville), the sponsor of HB 234, said during committee testimony. “The reality of it: try to hire an HVAC person today, or an electrician, or a plumber, someone like that; they’re very few and far between.”
Most lawmakers on the House Education Committee voted for it, although even some who support it, like Rep. Killian Timoney (R-Lexington), are worried about the money behind the program.
“If we implement something that’s so overwhelming to the KEES (Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship) system that they start losing the benefits, then where are we? We’re right back where we started before the KEES scholarship was created,” he said.
Lawrence said the investment needs to be made.
“We can never over-invest into Kentucky’s education system,” he said. “We can never over-invest into the next generation of workforce.”
The House Education Committee was also supposed to vote on a bill requiring armed officers at every school, but they pulled it at the last minute.
Committee chair Rep. Regina Huff (R-Williamsburg) said that was at the request of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kevin Bratcher (R-Louisville). She said she’s ready to hear the bill and vote for it when he’s ready, but acknowledged there are still some issues to work through.
“With doing SROs and placing them, we’re saying that even (elementary schools) out in rural Kentucky would have to have an SRO, and there’s just not the manpower,” she said. “That’s going to be a heavy financial lift, so we’re trying to work around to see other options, other funding to make this happen, because everyone should be secure when they drop off their kid at school.”
Bratcher did not return messages seeking Tuesday. He represents part of Louisville, where the public school district does not have any school resource officers.
The Jefferson County Public School board plans to vote on a plan to hire 30 officers on Thursday.