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Lawmakers rally to restore JTED funds

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State lawmakers are lining up en masse to block plans by Gov. Doug Ducey to sharply slash funding to career and technical education programs.

And there are enough of them to ensure they can override the governor if he balks.

The legislation by Sen. Don Shooter, D-Yuma, would repeal a measure approved last year and signed by the governor to cut $30 million from the budgets of Joint Technical Education Districts, effective this coming school year. Those JTEDs are formed by school districts to provide training for careers where the costs of the equipment are too much for any single school.

Ducey, in his budget proposal released earlier this month, said he was going to replace at least some of the money.

But that plan would provide only $10 million a year — and only for three years. And only JTEDs that could come up with matching funds from employers or industries would be eligible.

Shooter said that’s not acceptable to him or most of his colleagues. And SB 1258, signed on by 72 of the 90 lawmakers — enough lawmakers to override a veto — sends a message not only to Ducey but also Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, who has said the JTEDs lack sufficient oversight.

He said, though, he hopes it does not come to that.

In fact, Shooter said he already has been in contact with both the governor’s office and Biggs to craft something acceptable to all.

One key, he said, is “transparency.” Shooter said there is a belief among some that the JTEDs, which get extra state aid, have been operating programs that really should not qualify.

“There has been some mission creep,” Shooter conceded, with what started out as strictly technical training expanding into other areas.

Biggs has specifically questioned providing JTED funding for things like law enforcement training. He said that, unlike programs like welding certification, those who go through those programs cannot become police officers on graduation.

Shooter said, though, that there also has been some “misinformation.” He said not every program in career and technical education qualifies for the extra JTED funding.

Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato has said that his boss’ spending plan is not set in stone and can be modified — but only if it keeps the budget in balance.

Keeping that $30 million a year expenditure would mean finding a way of replacing the $20 million difference.

But supporters point out that the state is flush with cash, having ending the last budget year with more than $300 million in the bank and revenues this year already running close to $200 million ahead of projections.

Scarpinato counters that there really is no huge surplus, with the extra money the result of budget maneuvers to balance prior years’ budgets.

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