Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Arizona:Reinvest in Schools and Career & Technical Education

From day one, Legislative Democrats have made restoring Republican cuts to career and technical education (CTE) programs a priority. It was included among the key areas that need strategic investment to move the state forward.

In Arizona, Joint Technical Education Districts, a network of district and charter schools that provide career training programs, help keep students in school, prepare them to enter the workforce and can increase their overall earning potential. Last year, Republicans passed a budget that cut about $30 million from CTE programs across the state. Since then, there has been a bipartisan effort to fully restore these cuts, because these programs are growing and are “proven models of success.”  

Despite this level of support, the governor’s budget proposal would only provide money for competitive grants for these programs – totaling about $30 million over three years. It is a bureaucratic scheme. The governor’s proposal creates barriers for already-successful JTEDS struggling under the weight of past budget cuts. But if it’s not broken, don’t fix it; just fund it. These programs work for Arizona students.

The Arizona Republic reported that many school administrators aren’t satisfied with the governor’s proposal, saying that the new grant proposal “does little to address the root of their long-term funding issues.” Pima County JTED Superintendent Alan Storm told The Arizona Republic, “The governor did absolutely nothing to restore funding for JTEDS with his new grant proposal. Not a thing.”

The governor also failed to correct the teacher retention and recruitment problems plaguing Arizona schools. The Arizona School Personnel Association Survey from Dec. 2015 reports that there are 1,227 vacant teacher positions within the 84 Arizona school districts that participated. It’s been reported nationally that teachers are “fleeing Arizona in droves.” This could affect students immediately and also could have a lasting effect on the state’s economic security.  Democrats want to invest at least $50 million in teacher retention and recruitment programs. The governor’s budget proposal does not invest a dime in teacher retention or recruitment efforts.  

Arizona is full of independent and innovative people. There is no reason so many people should still be struggling after the recession. Democrats want to move the state forward by reinvesting in our schools and career and technical training programs so that our students have opportunities to find great careers. The governor has gotten very good at providing sound bites without substance, but Arizona needs more than that.

To see the Democratic plan for building a stronger Arizona, click here.