Joint Technical Education Districts (JTEDs) bolster the economy, not just in Arizona, but across the nation. Premier career and technical education (CTE) programs improve high school student achievement, dramatically reduce drop-out rates, and create skilled workers who are prepared to fill almost half the jobs in this country that are middle-skill positions.
Middle-skill jobs pay well and provide the infrastructure for critical economic sectors, such as manufacturing, energy, aerospace, and construction. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that these jobs will remain in high demand as more than 70 million middle-skill workers are projected to retire over the next decade.
Tough economic times called for a tough legislative session in Arizona. In the whirlwind budget process, did legislators kill Arizona’s goose that lays the golden eggs?
More than 90,000 students are enrolled in Arizona’s JTED programs. Of those students, 90 percent are enrolled in satellite programs operated in high schools. The remaining 10 percent of JTED students are enrolled in central campus programs. Approximately 98 percent of these students graduate from high school within four years, while the graduation for the rest of Arizona’s students is 76 percent.
The Legislature and governor made significant cuts to JTED central programs, and cuts that will eviscerate satellite programs across the state.
School districts earn one Average Daily Membership (ADM) for every student who is present all day long, all year long. This measure of per pupil funding, equal to $4,588, covers teachers, buses, lunch programs, and everything else required for running a school.
Voters overwhelmingly approved that JTED districts would receive an additional .25 ADM, $1,147, for students enrolled in JTED courses. Programs such as biotechnology, engineering, and automotive technologies are more expensive to deliver, as students must have relevant industry skills. The JTED funding pays for modern equipment, supplies, curriculum development, teacher training, and student leadership programs.
The state budget cuts the whole ADM to districts for every student they have enrolled in a JTED program by 7.5 percent starting in 2016-2017. The leaves districts $4244.58 ADM, a loss of $344 per JTED student. It also cuts the JTEDs’ .25 ADM, and Arizona’s three largest JTEDs are already held at 95.5 percent of that funding, so JTED ADM ends up reduced to 88 percent from its total funding, to $1,013. Districts typically receive 70 percent of JTED ADM from the JTEDs, while the balance helps provide services and central programs. This leaves JTED funding for districts at $709 per student.
To prevent school districts from cutting losses by dissuading students from taking JTED CTE programs, the budget allows districts to make up the loss in funding by using the JTED ADM they receive to make up the loss of $344 per student to their Maintenance and Operations (M&O) budgets. This leaves school districts with $365 per pupil to fund JTED programs, which amounts to a 50 percent reduction in their JTED funding for career and technical education programs.
Businesses and industry need JTEDs to provide a skilled work force. The Number 2 reason for businesses not expanding is a lack of skilled employees. Businesses and the state each need JTEDs because they enable students to become taxpayers earlier in their lives without taking on insurmountable student loans. These debts are a national problem and preclude young adults from buying homes, cars, and other big-ticket taxable items.
The large Baby Boomer population means that health care professions are also experiencing growth. JTEDs prepare students to fill the 1 million additional jobs opening in the U.S. for registered nurses, and the more than 600,000 new jobs opening for health technicians. Sooner or later, everyone will need these skilled professionals.
States across the nation are increasing their investments in career and technical education, and they are seeing a direct economic benefit of having greater numbers of people working in higher paying jobs. A special session of the Legislature needs to correct the wrong turn we made in the middle of the night.
— Alan L. Storm, Ph.D., is Pima County JTED superintendent and CEO.