Legislators to discuss expanding high school dual enrollment program

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Alabama House Republicans touted a bill that would provide income tax credits to those who contribute to the State Board of Education’s Career-Technical Dual Enrollment Program, which allows high school students to take classes through the two-year college system.

Gov. Robert Bentley and House leaders from both parties have said they support expansion of the program, which has been in existence since 2007. In the governor’s 2014-15 budget proposal, he appropriated $6 million for the program.

The funding pays for student scholarships, which covers tuition, fees and books, according to Annette Funderburk, a legislative liaison with the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education.

The tax credit bill will allow individuals and businesses who support students in the career-tech program by paying for tuition, donating to the scholarship fund or helping to fund specific training programs to get an income tax credit equal to 50 percent of the total donation. The credit can’t be more than half of that person’s income tax liability or more than $500,000.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said the tax credit won’t cost the Education Trust Fund anything because the money will stay in the two-year college system.

He said the program is meant to provide training for students that will help businesses recruit qualified employees for high-paying, specialized jobs.

“It’s designed to fulfill the unmet workforce needs we have in Alabama right now,” said Rep. Mac Buttram, R-Cullman, who is sponsoring the bill. “This will address the needs of companies already operating here and companies that will come here in the future.”

The tax credit will funding scholarships for students in the career-tech program, but not students who take academic classes through the dual enrollment program.

The Ways and Means Education Committee on Wednesday will discuss the tax credit bill, as well as a bill sponsored by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, that will require $5 million to be appropriated annually for the program in the Education Trust Fund (ETF).

Currently, there is about $2 million in the ETF budget for dual enrollment scholarships.

Follow @NewsQuip on Twitter at 9 a.m. Wednesday for live Tweets on the two dual enrollment bills that will be discussed in committee.

Coming Sunday: A closer look on what the expansion of the dual enrollment program will do for Alabama  students, businesses and economic development.

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