State allocates recurring $3M to SJR State

After several years of pushing for additional funding for St. Johns River State College career and technical students in Putnam and Clay counties, the state Legislature has approved recurring funding for the programs. 

After awarding the college a non-recurring appropriation worth $3 million for career and technical programs during the 2018 legislative session, the state has made the $3 million appropriation recur on an annual basis. 

The secured funding follows last year’s legislative move to transfer the responsibility of career and technical education in Putnam County from First Coast Technical College to SJR State. 

“I have been working it for three years trying to make it happen,” SJR State President Joe Pickens said. “I thought there should be done something done about it.”

Pickens said the transferring of responsibilities would provide opportunities to Putnam and Clay students that First Coast Technical College was not providing in the past. SJR State has campuses in Putnam, Clay and St. Johns counties. 

“I finally said, ‘Look, somebody has to do something about it, and I am the person in the position to do so.’” Pickens said. “I wouldn’t be doing the best job I could do for my community if I didn’t least try.”

Pickens said the college was able to implement several new programs thanks to state funding last year, including an engineering advanced manufacturing program in Putnam County. The funds will also support the new medical assisting program in Putnam, slated to begin in the fall. 

“It is good for students and the workforce, but it is also good for businesses and industries because these are the types people of they need,” Pickens said. “That is where the jobs are going to be in the future.” 

Now that funds are recurring, he said, the college could cover faculty costs and other recurring expenses as programs grow and more are developed. As for how the money is split up between the different campuses each year, Pickens said it would be a fluid situation. 

“Really, what we do, when we do it and where we do it is going to based upon facility availability and imminent need,” he said. 

Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, said the secured funding was the result of hard work from Pickens and support from Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Fleming Island, and Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the chairmen of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees. 

“It is always rewarding to have other people engaged in the legislative process and work with colleagues like Rep. Cummings and Sen. Bradley and others to support each other,” he said. “We are really excited and proud of that.”

After years of pushing for Putnam and Clay students to get the funding they deserved, Pickens said, he is thankful the process has worked out and benefited each county 

“It is incredibly rewarding to me to have embarked on this endeavor really more than three years ago and see it come to fruition,” he said. “I really think (it) is going to be impactful to our home county and the neighboring county.”

Pickens said he is grateful for the efforts of a multitude of people who made the funding possible, but it could not have been done without state legislators listening to college officials and looking out for the needs of the community. 

“They care as deeply as I do about our communities, and they are willing to listen,” he said.

Palatka Daily News

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