West Kentucky has an elected representative in Frankfort with definite ideas on where career and technical education in the Commonwealth should be going. State Senator Ken Winters has been in the Kentucky Senate since 2005. His career in higher education, last serving as president of Campbellsville University, brought him to the attention of Senate President David Williams when the chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee came up. During Paducah’s former representative Frank Rasche’s term chairing the House Education Committee, Winters worked closely with him to shepherd through legislation.
Winters spoke with me by phone recently about what he sees as an issue in education – career and technical education. Programs to train and retrain workers are managed by two different state agencies and the result, according to Winters, is confusion for students, faculty, administration and the general public.
Presently, the two state agencies with authority over career and tech ed programs are the Education Cabinet through Workforce Development Kentucky Tech. There are approximately 54 schools that answer to them. The Kentucky Department of Education has roughly 44 schools that come under its authority.
That makes for competition for resources and mixed signals. According to Winters, professors/teachers in programs run by the Kentucky Department of Education have the same rights as other teachers. They are eligible for tenure and share in the pay structure of Kentucky schools. Those under Kentucky Tech have more access to equipment and technology than their counterparts.
Senator Ken Winters wants to move career and technical education in Kentucky in a more unified direction. The Governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force met last Monday at the Green County Area Technology Center in Greensburg, Kentucky, Winters is a part of that task force. According to Winters, he was initially a reluctant recruit, citing a number of other education committees he serves on. He joined in part to have an effect on the area of career and tech education.
Winters would like to see career and tech ed programs with their own separate governing body. He envisions a set up similar to the one currently serving Kentucky’s community college system. He is considering introducing legislation to make big changes in the way tech and career ed is governed in the 2011 General Assembly. Money and time to devote to the issue may mean the legislation doesn’t get through in 2011.
When asked about Winters’ career and tech ed proposal, Sen. Bob Leeper, who chairs the Senate budget committee, said that Winters is his expert in educational matters. Leeper said that studies he’s seen cite a trained workforce as the number one issue for business. He would support Winters plan “within the restraints of the budget.”
Winters may or not get the full revamp of management of career and tech ed he envisions in 2011, but it is clear that Winters will work to make changes in the current dual system.