Career programs take budget hit

KOLD News 13
Friday, April 15, 2011
Barbara Grijalva

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - Arizona's new budget is hitting a lot more high school students in Pima County.

The state is making, what is being called a devastating budget cut, to JTED, the Joint Technical Education District.

That is the voter-approved high school career and technical education program that serves some 24,000 high school students in Pima County.

Career and technical education in Pima County isn't the old shop class you might be used to.

There are traditional vocational programs, all the way to engineering and bio-technology classes and labs.

Students go directly into the workforce or to higher education.

Now state budget cuts are going to keep some 7,100 students a year out of the program.

Pima County JTED Superintendent Dr. Alan Storm says, "I never in my wildest dreams thought we were going to be cut 43%."

Storm says the bigger-than-expected state budget cut of more than 10 million dollars hit out of nowhere.

"Our budget will be next year about 13-and-a-half million, which is three million less than our first year budget when we had half the students," Storm says.

Dr. Storm takes us on a tour of a health care lab.

He says you'll find state-of-the-art, premiere equipment here, just as you will in other programs, such as graphic design.

Jennifer Stohlmann is a Flowing Wells High School and JTED junior in the Graphic Design Program.

"I'm planning on going to study graphic design in college and hopefully have a career," she says.

Pima County voters approved JTED in 2006, raising their own property taxes to pay for it.

The state foots part of the JTED bill.

Every Pima County high school student was eligible, by state law, until now.

Freshmen will no longer be allowed to enroll.

Storm says, "Every district is being affected, not only by their own budget cuts, whatever that number comes out to be. They're also going to lose 43% of their funding that they had from us."

Storm says state data show a greater benefit to students than the training they get in JTED programs.

He says they do better on the all-important state AIMS test.

"Kids who have at least a three-year CTE program, kids pass AIMS at a 20 to 30% higher rate than kids who are not in career and technical education," Storm says.

Flowing Wells High School and JTED freshman Zaak Coffman says, "Because I want to work hard in this class and continue to exceed in it, I want to do the same in the other classes."

Students often take their classes and labs on their own time, after school and on weekends.

Freshmen won't be the only ones left out by the budget cuts.

JTED expects to have to lay-off up to 70 teachers and staff.

We called Kevin McCarthy, of the Arizona Tax Research Association, who agrees with dropping freshmen from JTEDS across the state.

He says Arizona has no constitutional obligation to fund JTEDS which he says are voter-approved special districts.

McCarthy adds there are very real discussions in the legislature about the state totally walking away from funding JTEDS, and leaving all the costs up to the local taxpayers.