CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A familiar bill will be back on the table when the legislative session begins this week.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael said on MetroNews “Talkline” that Senate Bill 1 will be a bill that creates a grant program for West Virginia’s Community and Technical College students.
“We have many, many jobs in West Virginia that go unfilled because of lack of specific training,” Carmichael said. “This bill, more than any other thing we can go addresses that issue.”
This bill was introduced last year as Senate Bill 284 and passed the Senate with bipartisan support. The bill died in the House in early February, the same time the teacher strikes were occurring at the Capitol.
State Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said support for the bill remains between both parties.
“I think we have to invest in education,” Stollings said during a Legislative Lookahead event sponsored by the West Virginia Press Association.
“We see the value in that community and technical college area and would like to make that much more attainable. We all know that education levels the playing field and we need to level the playing field.”
State Senator Corey Palumbo, speaking at the same event, expressed agreement.
“I totally agree the community and technical college bill should be a priority for us,” said Palumbo, D-Kanawha.
“I’m really optimistic the House will take that up this year and pass it.”
Carmichael said the total expense for the program would be less than $10 million and worked out to be $800 to $1,000 dollars per student per year.
“Without spending this money, it is costing our state an enormous amount of money,” he said. “Many times they end up in social welfare system or there are drug problems. This is a way to break this cycle of poverty to incentivize student at the high school level to aspire to a degree they can obtain in less than two years and begin an amazing career.
“It is a money-making investment in the state of West Virginia.”
Carmichael said there are requirements for in-state students applying for this last dollar to help pay for CTCs. He said each recipient of the funds must submit to drug testing, they must serve a direct number of community service hours and upon graduation or certification the student must work in West Virginia for a period of two years, if not they pay the grant that the taxpayer provided to get their education.
“A lot of people that oppose this say you can’t make this free,” he said. “It is not free. There is community service, there is drug testing, there are payback provisions if you don’t stay in state and pay taxes in West Virginia.
“It is not that big of a challenge to keep track of these administrative issues. The technology that exists today that enables one to validate the positions of each of those applicants whether they are in West Virginia or not, paying taxes or not, whether they are doing their community service hours. It is not that much of an administrative burden.”
Carmichael pointed out on “Talkline” the success the state of Tennessee has had with a similar program, making it the state’s number one recruiting tool for businesses and jobs in the state.
MetroNews statewide correspondent Brad McElhinny contributed to this story.