Essential skills legislation passes House Education Committee

House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell
House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 6, 2018) — As Kentucky employers struggle to find qualified individuals with the skills needed to fill the jobs they have available, legislation that will empower schools to help their students graduate with essential skills passed through the House Education Committee Tuesday.

House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, the sponsor of House Bill 3, said essential skills, including things such as communication, showing up, being diligent, and being drug free, are valued by employers across all sectors.

“House Bill 3 is our opportunity to close the gap between the foundational skills required in the workforce and those that students leave school with,” Shell said. “The good news is many schools in Kentucky are already attempting to do this to some degree. This bill is needed to give those schools credit for their effort to address this critical skills gap.”

Shell said the legislation represents a lot of discussions with various groups and schools across the state. The House Majority Leader said the bill:

• Identifies and defines the Essential Skills that Kentucky students need to succeed in the workplace.
• Gives schools credit who are already addressing this skills gap.
• Allows schools the flexibility to use their own program or resources provided by the Kentucky Department of Education.
• Brings education and business together to provide best practices and resources to schools who want assistance in essential skills programming.
• Creates a Kentucky Work Ethic Certificate that will be used to help deem students transition ready.

Educators from Garrard County testified alongside Rep. Shell about the efforts their district is utilizing including embedding essential skills education into their curriculum, partnering with Berea College for their efforts, launching drug testing procedures, having students go on job interviews in fields of interest, and more.

Kalem Grasham, an administrator with Garrard County Schools, said HB 3 is an effective way to help schools embed these skills into curriculum at no cost and encouraged legislators to put essential skills education in the state’s accountability model.

Dr. Marty Pollio, acting superintendent for the Jefferson County Public Schools, also testified in favor of the legislation.

“I am confident this is going to be a model for education across the country,” Pollio said. “Students will be more college and career ready because of this.”

Many members of the committee were vocal about their support of the legislation when casting their votes. Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, has signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill and made statements during the meeting thanking Rep. Shell for bringing the bill forward and said she believes this approach will help Kentucky’s students be more prepared for life after K-12 education.

House Bill 3 now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.

Watch an interview with Majority Leader Shell with The Bottom Line about the essential skills legislation here.


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