February 9, 2021 10:16am
GLI testifies in support of legislation expanding access to education
This morning, GLI Advocacy staff testified in Frankfort in support legislation to expand access to education and advance racial equity, leading to unanimous passage of the bill by legislators. Before the House Education Committee, GLI Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs, Charles Aull, voiced the business community’s support for House Bill 25, sponsored by Rep. Killian Timoney. This legislation would allow individuals with a felony record to access Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship funds for educational opportunities. Under current law, a felony disqualifies Kentuckians from being eligible for KEES funds. By removing this ban, thousands of Kentuckians who have made mistakes in the past and had run-ins with the law will have a better chance of successfully reentering society, supporting themselves and their families, and driving economic growth in our region.
Access to education has been widely linked to reduced recidivism rates and successful reentry – top priorities for GLI and key components of our regional workforce development strategy. GLI also supported Congress’s recent removal of the ban on incarcerated individuals from receiving Pell Grants.
GLI strongly supported this same legislation in the 2020 session, testifying in support of House Bill 368 in the House and Senate education committees. The bill passed the House unanimously but did not receive a full vote in the Senate. As with 2020, GLI will be championing this legislation again in the 2021 session.
Read GLI’s full testimony from February 9 below.
Chair Huff and committee members, thank you for this opportunity to speak about the business community’s support for House Bill 25 – and thank you to Representative Timoney for championing this important legislation.
I know that time is of the essence in this legislative session, so I will capture the view of the Greater Louisville business community on this bill as concisely as possible: House Bill 25 is pro-workforce development, pro-access to opportunity for more Kentuckians, and pro-successful reentry for individuals coming back into our society.
It is critical that we not forget the workforce challenges that Kentucky employers faced prior to the pandemic and not kid ourselves into thinking that those same challenges somehow disappeared in March of last year. To the contrary, these challenges persist and will hold back our economic recovery. We must continue the important work developing our labor force. Our regional business community in Greater Louisville believes expanding access to educational opportunities for individuals with felony records should be a key part of Kentucky’s workforce development strategy.
I want to add that this bill also supports the goal of advancing racial equity in Kentucky. Our criminal justice system has had a disproportionate impact on Black Kentuckians. According to the Vera Institute, 21 percent of our state prison population is Black, while Black Kentuckians represent 9 percent of the state population. It is critical that we ensure all individuals leaving incarceration have full access to educational opportunities, which we know supports successful reentry and reduces the likelihood of them returning to jail or prison.
GLI strongly urges your support for House Bill 25.