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WKCTC Announces New Business Champions Council

Ken Wheeler Elected as Chair

(Paducah, Ky.) - West Kentucky Community and Technical College has lost a significant amount of state funding over the last several years, and business leaders are stepping up to let legislators know they agree with Gov. Matt Bevin that Kentucky can do better. Several local business leaders are serving as Business Champions as part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System's (KCTCS) Fuel the Force campaign, which is asking for restoration of postsecondary education funding.

The WKCTC Business Champions Council is asking legislators to support the Council on Postsecondary Education's (CPE) budget request that recently was submitted to Gov. Bevin. In the request, CPE asks for half of the decrease in state appropriations since 2008 be restored to the nine public postsecondary education institutions, which includes KCTCS.

Business leaders are concerned that the loss of funding is affecting their ability to hire skilled workers and the effect it has on local economies. Fifteen local community and business leaders signed on to serve as the Business Champions Council. Retired waterways industry executive Ken Wheeler of Paducah will chair the local Council. Local leaders are part of the statewide group of hundreds of business leaders serving as Business Champions.

"Community colleges are the engine of Kentucky's workforce and are the state's largest providers of workforce education and training," said Wheeler, a member of the Paducah Junior College. Inc., Board of Trustees. "To be a better state, we have to have a well-educated workforce and now is the time to reinvest in Kentucky's higher education."

Even though the economy has improved, Kentucky is one of only a handful of states that has not begun reinvesting in higher education. Additionally, Kentucky is one of only three states in the nation--joining Oklahoma and West Virginia--that has continued to cut per student funding for higher education each of the last two years.

"We're very appreciative of the Business Champions Council and their willingness to tell policy makers the importance of reinvesting in our colleges and universities," said WKCTC president Dr. Barbara Veazey. "By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require some form of postsecondary degree. Therefore, higher education has to be a community priority."

Champions will attend a legislative rally and reception on Feb. 18 in Frankfort. Other outreach efforts include calls, emails, and inviting legislators to visit a workplace or other face-to-face meetings.

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