FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - A group of teenage Louisville mothers asked lawmakers to continue funding a program that prevented them from dropping out of school on Tuesday.
The first House Appropriations and Review Committee meeting of the session included warnings that lawmakers will have little extra money to allocate. It sets in motion a month-long process to write the state's budget.
The legislature has provided $250,000 per budget cycle to the Teenage Parent Program, which Jefferson County Public Schools has offered since 1970. The program allows mothers to finish high school and prepare for college while their children receive care.
"It has changed my life and we need to continue it, so girls like me can carry on," said Treasure Hinton, a senior who said she got pregnant after being sexually assaulted at age 14.
The program has a 99 percent graduation rate, said Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, who asked the House Appropriations and Review Committee to maintain funding.
JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens, who also appeared before the budget-writing committee, said the program had benefited the community by sending women to college, instead of to low-paying jobs.
"We know that when any student, particularly a young mother, makes a decision to drop out, they are confining their career path to minimum wage jobs that could confine a family to a lifetime of poverty," Hargens said.
The committee made no decisions on the program's funding Tuesday. It will take the panel about a month to approve a budget, said Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, the committee's chairman.
Lawmakers also received a briefing from Gov. Steve Beshear's budget director, Jane Driskell, who defended the administration's proposal to borrow $1.96 billion to fund projects, such as a new classroom building on the University of Louisville campus.
Republicans have said they hope to limit the amount of borrowing, but Rand said he didn't share their concerns about taking on new debt.
"I think the debt that (Beshear) has recommended has all been justified," he said. "I don't think there's any fluff in there."
Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, suggested that fund transfers, which Beshear used to shift more money into the general fund, not become "the norm" because it leads to a structural deficit.
The committee must approve a budget before it goes to the full House. The process then repeats in the Senate.
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