Gov. Kelly signs legislation creating workforce development scholarship program

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TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly signed bipartisan legislation Friday authorizing a scholarship program aimed primarily at encouraging Kansas community college and technical college students to develop skills in high-demand areas of the state’s economy.

The initiative would specifically bolster expertise in information technology and security, physical and mental health care, early childhood education and advanced manufacturing or building trades among students seeking associate’s degrees or technical certificates. Educational institutions, including certain four-year schools, could expand beyond the specified list with one additional program that corresponded to a high-wage, high-demand or critical-need field.

Kelly said the scholarship program in House Bill 2064 reinforced a goal of investing in students and businesses in Kansas to foster career opportunities in every corner of the state.

“I want to thank the Legislature for working with me, in a bipartisan fashion, to ensure Kansas students have access to the resources they need to succeed and build a robust pipeline of skilled workers to support future economic growth,” the Democratic governor said.

The bill earmarked a maximum of $10 million annually in each of the next two years. Appropriations in the future couldn’t exceed 150% of expenditures in the previous year.

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Louisburg Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act earned a 35-0 vote in the Senate and 118-4 vote in the House because it would be a “transformative” program.

She said businesses in Kansas hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic would benefit from newly trained workers.

“Those currently without work and the under-employed will receive the skills training they need for Kansas jobs that are in high demand and offer solid wages,” Baumgardner said.

Student scholarships would be prioritized based on family household income. Students receiving state aid must be a Kansas resident and have graduated in the previous 12 months from an accredited Kansas public or private high school, completed graduation requirements from a non-accredited private secondary school or obtained a high school equivalency certificate.

Within six months of completing an eligible college program, the scholarship recipient would be required to live and work in Kansas for a minimum of two years or enroll in a Kansas college or university. Scholarship awards would have to be repaid with interest if a student failed to live up to the award agreement.

Meanwhile, Kelly also signed Senate Bill 127 to allow commercial driver’s licenses to be renewed online in the manner ordinary driver’s licenses. The exception will be commercial licenses related to a hazardous materials endorsement. The bill also extended the maximum age for online application of license renewals to anyone under age 65.

She also signed House Bill 2218 which expanded the number of people on the State Employees Health Care Commission and requiring broader reporting to the Legislature on the health benefits of state workers.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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