By John Celock
Kansas is moving forward on expanding the state’s nurse educator scholarship program.
Gov. Sam Brownback (R) last month signed legislation to expand the nurse educator scholarship program from the state’s university system to private colleges in the state. The action comes after a dramatic session in the state House of Representatives when one lawmaker tried to attach an amendment to the bill to expand the state’s GED and technical college program to four-year colleges.
“We have currently in state law a scholarship program for this type of student and in our current law we only allow for the scholarships to be used at Regents institutions,” Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), who was carrying the nurse educator bill, told the House during last month’s debate.
Rep. Adam Lusker (D-Pittsburg) offered an amendment to the bill that would have allowed students studying for a GED to also obtain credits at the state’s four-year colleges, which are operated by the state Board of Regents. Lusker’s amendment would expand the existing program, which allows for the dual study with the state’s community college system.
Lusker was proposing the amendment since Crawford County, which includes his district, does not have a county college but is home to Pittsburg State University. He indicated that the state university is home to several programs used in the existing program and the amendment would expand its reach.
Bollier objected to Lusker’s amendment, noting that the Board of Regents does not support the expansion and questioning how someone without a high school diploma or a GED could be enrolled in a four-year college.
“This is a hostile amendment,” Bollier said of Lusker’s push.
Lusker got support from fellow Democrats, with Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City), the party’s spokeswoman on education issues, noting that the amendment was needed in order to serve the students in Pittsburg. She noted that the bill was related to the nurse educator bill since both would tackle scholarship related issues.
“Community colleges allow high school students to be dually enrolled. Pittsburg area does not have a community college. They are saying can we join in this GED accelerator program that allows students to be dually enrolled in high school and the program to get their technical credentials,” Winn said. “It happens throughout the state with community colleges. This area has no community college.”
The House rejected Lusker’s amendment 34-82. The move likely marks the end of a push to expand the program this year, as legislation tackling the issue has not advanced beyond a legislative committee.
While Lusker’s amendment was defeated, lawmakers easily approved the nurse educator bill 123-0.
“Right now we are doing a good thing to approve this bill to be able to teach more nursing students in our state,” Bollier said.