Posted at 12:50 p.m., March 11, 2015

Two promising education bills failed to move on

Two promising education bills died in the legislative process this year, both holding Wyoming students’ interests in career and technical training close to heart.

House Bill 103 and Senate File 121, which both failed to move on, addressed career and technical training for students of all stages in Wyoming.

House Bill 103, merit career-technical scholarships, crafted by Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Niobrara/Weston/Goshen, was meant to organize a task force whose job would have been to create a scholarship program for future career and technical students. Hunt modeled the idea after the Hathaway Scholarship program in an attempt to create a parallel program for Wyoming high school students interested in pursuing a more nontraditional degree, even using the same language as the original bill. No specifics were developed but rather left for the task force to create—the same idea used in 2005 and 2006 when the Hathaway program was being developed.

“A lot depended on what the task force would have proposed,” said Dr. James Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission.

Rose also said basing House Bill 103 on the Hathaway Program may have been the “kiss of death.”

“The Hathaway program is almost sacrosanct—the Legislature doesn’t like to tinker with it,” Rose said.

Depending on what the task force had decided, the bill could have “opened up the door a little” to a broader group of students and individuals, Rose said. Even though the bill died this year, the idea could still come back in later Legislatures.

Career technical training grants meet similar fate

Senate File 121 was also promising not only for future participants but for current and continuing career and technical students as well. Introduced by Sen. John M. Hastert, D-Sweetwater, who has introduced similar bills before that met similar fates, the bill would have allocated a pool of funding to be used for training grants to assist individuals seeking advanced training in the career and technical education fields.

National funds are already in place for individuals seeking to improve their skill sets, but this fund was specifically for Wyoming residents with at least 12 months of living in the state looking to begin or further their career and technical training experience.

David Curry, program director of technical studies at Laramie County Community College, said the career and tech programs at LCCC are nearly always full with students. Some students come to the college from working in career fields for further training or to cross over to another field and qualify for financial aid. Others are fresh from high school and qualify for financial aid as well.

Curry said if funding were available, “I think that would open more doors to high school students particularly as well as our mid-career changers.” He also said four-year institutions have been emphasized at high schools for many years, and interest in the trade side of education is beginning to show, with the need for workers ever growing.

“The need is there across the state, across the nation,” Curry said, and LCCC is trying to meet those needs.
But WCCC’s Dr. Rose said, “If the bill had passed, the community colleges wouldn’t have been in the same position as they were when they started.”

The language of the grant bill initially specified the “eligible training providers” to be the seven community colleges of Wyoming but was later amended to a broader “provider approved by the department of workforce services.” Still, Rose said the community colleges would be a major player because most of the required training is offered by the colleges.

Legislature sensitive to state's fiscal condition

As to why the bill met with death in its late stages, cost had a lot to do with it: “This Legislature became increasingly sensitive to the uncertainties about the state’s fiscal condition,” Rose said. An appropriation and a $2 million corpus for grants probably didn’t help, even with a sunset date of June 2016.

With both bills dead, no changes to colleges’ current education funding, and the need for career and technical workers in Wyoming and the nation is ever growing, the director of the WCCC, Dr. Rose, said it best: “We’re kind of back where we started.”


Find the need of Wyoming's workforce at Onetonline.org

State of Wyoming bill reference

2015 Legislative update

Bill passes concerning
Hathaway Scholarships

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