By Linda Kor
Teachers and school administrators likely took a collective sigh of relief last week as Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill that would allow Joint Technical Education Districts (JTED) to continue with virtually all the funding that he and lawmakers voted just a year ago to cut from career and technical education programs.
In Navajo County, the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) is a JTED under the direction of Superintendent Matt Weber, who explained how the anticipated loss of $30 million in JTED funding to schools would have affected 11 school districts within Navajo County.
“If this bill hadn’t been signed by the governor, at least six of the districts we serve would have let teachers go this coming year. Few districts have had the financial wiggle room to hold on to their JTED teachers for another year,” Weber noted, adding that without the continued funding, a third of the programs would have been lost, with the remaining gone in three years.
The cut was touted as a 7.5 percent reduction in funding in April of last year when legislators approved it. But Weber said that was not a realistic calculation. “It would have cut from the ADE (Arizona Department of Education) funding and from us. The smallest impact to a district would have been 42 percent,” he said.
Weber doesn’t think the bill is perfect, but it is effective in preserving the programs, and he’s grateful for the outcome and support of legislators.
“Senator (Don) Shooter of Yuma was the main champion to make sure this happened, but each of our local representatives and senators signed on to make sure we had support. Senator Sylvia Allen certainly went the extra mile and Senator (Carlyle) Begay made sure we could present our side to the Native American caucus. They were all very influential. Our local legislators were major contributors to getting us an audience to present our side,” stated Weber. “I’m just grateful the panic is over and that teachers no longer have to wonder if they have a job, they can be at peace with this.”
Although stressful and disconcerting, Weber believes there were positive outcomes from the ordeal. “I believe JTED is now stronger. People who had no idea what these programs were about now understand their value. This took us out of obscurity,” he explained.
The bill restores all but $2 million of the funding, which lawmakers determined was used to support adult students, an aspect of the JTEDs that will no longer be supported. An additional $1 million has been put aside for this year to allow adult students currently enrolled in programs to finish their courses.
The JTEDs serve children throughout much of the state, allowing high school students to learn valuable skills that lead directly to employment after graduation. Students in Navajo County obtain their core education at their high school, and can attend Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs under NAVIT either on their high school campus, or at a Northland Pioneer College campus or work site where they obtain hands-on training in the latest technology in a wide variety of technical careers such as Mechatronics, nursing, auto repair, construction services and more.
By Linda Kor