House passes work-based learning, education funding bill despite some lingering concerns
Despite some lingering concerns, lawmakers voted to advance a work-based learning bill Tuesday that gives students more options to use higher education grants.
A work-based learning law passed last year createdCareer Scholarship Accounts that pay for students to pursue internships and apprenticeships with local industries.
This year’s bill, House Bill 1001, allows money from the 21st Century Scholars program, a higher education award; or a Freedom of Choice grant can be used to pay for a course, certificate, or apprenticeship after a student graduates high school.
The bill was previously amended so that part won’t begin until next year, when lawmakers revisit the state budget.
Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) wrote the amendment to delay implementation. He expressed concern about changes to higher education grants and how those changes could affect the programs’ funding earlier this year. He said there are still a lot of unknowns.
After his amendment was approved this week, DeLaney said he supports the bill overall because it’s an opportunity to guide students toward college or technical training.
“I think we have a chance to do something very few states have done, which is to say we can both train academically oriented individuals and people who are not so academically oriented. But we have to do both,” DeLaney said.
Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) said Democrats still have a lot of questions about the initial program that have never been answered.
“I think that more time needs to be put into developing this career education program,” he said. “We’re putting together the pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit together.”
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Smith also raised specific concerns about a portion of this year's bill that would allow students to use Career Scholarship Accounts to pay for training for a driver’s license. He said funds to pay for a driver’s license won’t help students who don’t have a vehicle. The bill specifically states Career Scholarship Accounts cannot be used to purchase vehicles.
Rep. Chuck Goodrich (R-Noblesville), the bill’s author, said transportation was a major hindrance to students getting to internships and apprenticeships after last year’s law was implemented. He likened a driver’s license to a credential or certificate and said using the funds to get a driver’s license follows the spirit of the law.
Goodrich addressed Smith’s concern that lawmakers are focusing to narrowly on technical training rather than encouraging students to find the path that is right for them.
“This is just another pathway to a student going to college or a student getting a credential and being successful,” he said. “It’s not either or. …There are different pathways in lifelong learning, and this I really think leads the way in our country when it talks about treating kids equal.”
The bill passed the House 80 to 17 and now proceeds to the Senate.