The Kentucky Department of Education Wednesday called on state legislators to create a unified career and technical education system. Locally, the Gateway Academy to Innovation and Technology could be affected by the proposed change.

"At best, we have a bifurcated system, but arguably, we lack a system for delivering career and technical education in Kentucky," said KDE Wayne Lewis to the Kentucky Budget Review Subcommittee on Education.

According to the KDE news release, the state operates 53 area technology centers. Only some of those centers actually receive state funding.

Technological centers begin training students on academic as well as technical trades at the high school level.

The KDE release stated that funding for both state technology centers and their local counterparts is too low to deliver quality programs based on regional workforce needs. Locally, Gateway Academy trains students in multiple fields, including engineering, health sciences, food and nutrition and industrial maintenance.

"The demand is far greater than we're able to deliver on, and we find ourselves shifting money around to subsidize the operations of the state-operated ATCs," Lewis said in the release.

In the presentation to the subcommittee on education, KDE Associate Commissioner David Horseman explained that the current funding format for vocational educational centers has not actually been used since creation. That is due to a flaw in the original formula that could cause larger centers to receive less money than smaller centers.

He said the formula is based upon the number of students and the classroom time they spend in a career pathway. He added that the funding mechanism leaves than 60 career pathways in local area vocational educational centers across the state, even in high-demand industries, unfunded.

"If we go back to that formula, it would absolutely cause disruption at those centers," Horseman said.

Christian County Public Schools currently offer 14 pathways of learning at Gateway Academy. Christian County High School offers 10 pathways and Hopkinsville High School offers 12 pathways.

Under the current funding system, only eight of those pathways receive state funding.

"Re-evaluating the funding system for CTE is necessary in order to provide scholars with the very best and most up-to-date experience available," said Gateway Academy to Innovation and Technology Principal Penny Knight. "Additional money would allow us to add updated, modern equipment, provide more Industry Certifications and even something as simple as going on field trips to enhance the classroom work."

Lewis compared Kentucky's system to Ohio, which shares a border. According to Lewis, Ohio has around half the number of technical high schools than Kentucky, but those schools serve more than twice as many students.

"Even with 100 schools, there are population centers, like Owensboro, where kids don't have adequate access to technical programs," he said. "Although we should not copy Ohio's system or any other, I do not believe we can provide enough funding for 100 technical high schools across the state.

"We have to create a system that provides every Kentucky high school student regardless of their school district -- large or small, urban or rural -- with access to high quality CTE programs."

Reach Jon Russelburg at 270-887-3241 or jrusselburg@kentuckynewera.com.

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