PRESTONSBURG – Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) 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 BSCTC 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 to be restored to the nine public postsecondary education institutions, which includes KCTCS.
Business leaders are concerned about how loss of funding is affecting their ability to hire skilled workers and the effect it has on local economies. Twenty people signed on to the BSCTC campaign, and members elected Rusty Justice, of Jigsaw Enterprises, LLC and BitSource, LLC, to chair the Council. They are part of statewide group of hundreds of business leaders who’ve become Business Champions.
Other local Business Champions are: Phillip Elliott, First Commonwealth Bank; Phillip Elswick, Summit Engineering; Allen Gillum, Appalachian Wireless; Mark Grim, Booth Energy; Cynthia Howard, Cooley Medical; Stephan Jordan, Kellogg’s; Jerry Kanney, Interstate Natural Gas; Mark McKenzie, Johnson County Chamber of Commerce; Richard Ray, Kellogg’s; Dr. Henry Webb, Floyd County Schools; Dr. Chandra Varia, Catholic Health Initiatives; Dr. Mina Majmundar, G.M. Majmundar, PSC; Brandon Feltner, Citizen’s National Bank; Chuck Sexton, One East Kentucky; Fran Jarrell, Johnson County Chamber of Commerce and Jacob Colley, Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Even though the recession ended several years ago, 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.
“As the leader of a business in Eastern Kentucky I am deeply concerned about potential budget cuts in higher education, particularly our community colleges,” said Justice. “We look to our community colleges, who are the largest providers of workforce training in the state, to provide the training our workers need to reach their full potential. An appropriate investment in higher education must be a priority for our legislators if they want Kentucky’s economy to improve. It’s no secret that states with the best trained workers are where the businesses locate or expand.”
The Business Champions Council will take part in a business showcase event during the 2016 General Assembly to highlight the careers they offer and how they align with [College] programs. Additionally, Champions will attend a legislative rally and reception on Feb. 18 in Frankfort. Other outreach efforts include calls, emails, inviting legislators to visit a workplace or other face-to-face meetings.