Pima County school superintendents and local business leaders came together this afternoon to tell state lawmakers that enough is enough—the continuous cuts to education at all levels have a detrimental effect on Arizona's children and the overall future of the state's economy.
At a press conference earlier this afternoon, there was a huge concern for the $30 million in possible cuts to Joint Technical Education Districts.
News of a budget deal between Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP leaders arose late Monday, and today the heads of Tucson Unified, Sunnyside Unified, Vail Unified, Sahuarita Unified school districts, as well as JTED and representatives with the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, demanded legislators to vote against it and persuaded all voters to put pressure on the state government to stop the abuse, and realize (as if it weren't obvious enough already) that education, business and economy go hand-in-hand—there is no way to cripple one without crippling the other.
"JTED was a referendum approved by tax payers in Pima County, approved at over 70 percent across the board, a huge percentage of passing a bill that says 'we want to raise our taxes because we want more money to go into career and technical education programs,'" said Alan Storm, JTED superintendent. "The current budget being proposed would take away 7.5 percent from every member district for every student (that attends) career and technical education courses and programs. Districts cannot possibly withstand a 7.5 percent cut on every one of their career and technical education programs."
At TUSD's level, that would be $330 per student that enrolls in a career and technical education course, according to TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez.
Vail Superintendent Calvin Baker, whose district would lose about $2.5 million from its sponsored charter schools funding, said that JTED is the most successful partnership between education and business that has occurred in Pima County "for the last couple of decades."
There was a common confusion: Ducey supports attracting more businesses to Arizona and fueling the economy, but defends a $104 million cut to universities
, a $30 million cut to JTEDs, and about $98 million to K-12 (although overall funding would rise $102 million, Legislature Democrats say the number is misleading because the increases are largely driven by higher enrollment and inflation, and this budget deal actually means a $98 million cut to K-12 starting next year, according to The Arizona Republic), and pretty much zero, yes zero, state funding for Pima, Pinal and Maricopa community colleges.
Storm and all others present reminded lawmakers that the first thing businesses search for in a state is a skilled workforce, and JTEDs—quality education in general—are at the forefront.
A similar school district collaboration happened in the Phoenix area. And, as we speak, a protest is happening at the state Capitol.
The appropriations committees in the state House and Senate are expected to vote on the budget today, with a final approval in both chambers coming either tomorrow or Saturday.