Tuesday, November 10, 2015

AZ Kids Can, Apparently, Wait for Career and Technical Education

Posted By on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 at 1:00 PM

In early October, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Diane Douglas rolled out an 156-page plan entitled “AZ Kids Can’t Afford to Wait” which details her plan to immediately take $400 million from the state’s general fund in order to revitalize education in Arizona.

Although this plan is mostly platformed around ridding Arizona of Common Core standards and raising teacher salaries, there is a section about revitalizing career and technical education, which was one of the areas hit hardest by state education budget cuts last year.

“The 2016-17 budget cuts of $29 million to career tech education across the state will effectively kill these programs across the state,” said Alan Storm, Pima County Joint Technical Education District Superintendent/CEO. Joint Technical Education Districts provide the network for students to be able to receive career education that they want. The plan set forth by Douglas to improve CTE is paved with good intention, but is mostly just a symbolic gesture, Storm said.

“In the past [Douglas] has not shown that she was a great supporter of career and technical education,” said Kathy Prather, Director of CTE in Sunnyside Unified School District. “I find it a little suspect and I’m not sure I trust her intentions.”

Without the extra funding proposed in “AZ Kids Can’t Afford to Wait,” JTED’s will be almost non-existent in Arizona, officials say. According to the plan itself, projected funding for CTE is set at $41 million statewide. In the 2010-2011 educational year, funding was $94 million. Funding cuts to JTED's have been widely viewed a bad move by Tucson City Council and other education officials.

“We’re good for next year, but we will run into a financial crisis the year after,” said Jill Ranucci, CTE Director for Catalina Foothills Unified School District. The individual schools are already trying to streamline programs so that they might be able to offer some programs in the following years, according to Ranucci.

“Currently we’re barely able to keep the programs afloat,” Prather said. “We are going to do our best with whatever funding we receive, but it’s going to be difficult to take a 50 to 60 percent hit and keep everything and deliver the quality programs that we are barely able to deliver right now.”

The programs offered by career and tech education in Arizona range from welding and manufacturing, to computer programming, to finance and marketing. In many cases, they offer college credit, especially in biotech and engineering courses. According to Storm, many of these programs are designed to be four year programs, but due to budget cuts, the first thing to go was freshman classes.

“Every study that’s been written about JTED’s in Arizona say ‘you people are being stupid, why are you only starting in the tenth grade?’ Well that’s because the state took all of our money away,” said Storm.

For those involved in the CTE programs it seem critical to them that this type of education remains available to the public. A study by the Arizona State University Morrison Institute for Public Policy showed that the chances of dropping out reduced by 50 percent for students in Tucson who took two or more CTE courses.

“It is critical that we fund career and technical education because it is economic development for Arizona, it is our future workforce, it is what is going to drive businesses to come to Tucson and Arizona,” said Prather.

“Of kids who take CTE classes, many of those students go to college,” Storm said. “It’s not an either or, it’s an 'and.'”

For now, the fate of career and technical education in Arizona rests with Douglas’ $400 million plan. Despite Prather’s trepidation about Douglas’ track record and the motive behind her plans, she is wishing for the best.

“I’m hopeful that she means this and that they move forward in taking some of these actions,” Prather said.

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