Claiming students in Vermont-- especially those living in poverty-- aren't learning the job skills they need in high school, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced his plan Thursday to re-energize Vermont's workforce.
"We've got jobs, we need to change the system that is putting barriers in the way of people who want to work," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
The "Flexible Pathways" part of the plan will allow a junior or senior in high school to attend up to two classes free of charge at any Vermont state college or other participating private institution in the state.
"This will be financed through an $800,000 appropriation over two years from the general fund," Shumlin said.
But after two years, the state will only pay half the bill. Local school budgets will need to cover the other half.
"These are normal operating costs for a high school in the 21st century, so it should be part of the costs of local school budgets," Vt. Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca said.
Also part of the plan is the Vermont Strong Scholars Program. Vermonters who attend a local college and graduate on time with a degree related to science, technology, engineering or math will receive an incentive if their first job after graduation is in Vermont and they stay there for five years.
"Then there will be some sort of benefit from the state, I think it's structure is not known yet, it will reward you one year of tuition for a four-year degree, and one semester of tuition for a two-year degree," said Tim Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges.
While the plan has the support of both the House and Senate education committees, a number of lawmakers have concerns about the costs.
"My job is not to worry about how many legislators are with me now; my job is how to get the bill to my desk to sign. I will get it there," Shumlin said.
The governor admits a similar proposal failed in the Legislature last year, but says this one has greater statewide support, including schools and the business community.