Amid budget negotiations dominated by talks of pay raises for K-12 teachers, some Arizona trade schools got a long-awaited boost in funding.
Of the 14 Joint Technical Educational Districts in the state, better known as JTEDs, three have received a smaller share of funding than the rest. The East Valley Institute of Technology, the Western Maricopa Education Center and the Pima County Joint Technical Education District are the largest trade schools in Arizona, and all received roughly 95 percent of the funding they required, while the 11 other school districts got a full 100 percent.
That will change thanks to a $1.8 million appropriation in the fiscal year 2019 budget, which provides large JTEDs 100 percent of their base funding, according to state budget documents.
“We’ve been funded at 94 percent forever, the three large ones,” said Alan Storm, superintendent of Pima County JTED. “So that’s the full funding, is for the three large JTEDs.”
The budget will add roughly $700,000 to Pima JTED’s annual budget, Storm said.
Storm took issue with the use of the phrase fully funded, however, noting that the state still doesn’t provide dollars for a four-year tuition-free career and technical education to high school students.
The funding only covers an education beginning in a student’s sophomore year, putting students at a disadvantage when they’re tested on standards designed to determine a student’s proficiency after four years of education.
“Fully funded would assume, for example, that we have our 9th Grade funding back, which we still don’t. We still receive no funding for 9th Grade students, and that was a $28 million cut back in 2010, I think. And out of that $28 million statewide, $14 million of that alone was from Pima County,” Storm said. “We lost $14 million. So we’re anything but fully funded.”
Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, said there was a push to get JTEDs the funding they need to start career and technical education a year earlier.
But given the lack of funds available to the state, particularly in a legislative session dominated by discussion of K-12 funding, particularly teacher pay, Cook said lawmakers settled for providing an evenly-funded playing field for JTEDs.
It was the smart choice, Cook said, given that JTED students in their sophomore, junior and senior years are closer to entering the workforce than their 9th Grade counterparts would be.
Given the choice between funding for 9th Grade and funding large JTEDs at 100 percent, he chose to provide more dollars for the students who are “ready to enter the workforce now.”
Cook said there will be future conversations about providing funding for JTEDs to cover a fourth year of a high school technical education, depending on the availability of state revenues.
“I just think it’s a great program,” he said. “We have to make sure we’re providing a career opportunity for all young people who are on the right track.”
Rep. Rusty Bowers, a Mesa Republican who works at the East Valley Institute of Technology, said it was important to bring equity to the funding of JTEDs.
“Why would there be less money paid for (certain) students?” Bowers said.e