Arizona legislators have introduced a bill to restore partial funding for high school freshmen taking classes through Joint Technical Education District vocational education programs.
The Senate Education Committee on Feb. 1 passed SB1269, which would restore about $6 million statewide in funding for ninth-grade students who take JTED courses.
The current law states that JTED only include students in grades 10 through 12 in calculating average daily attendance if the students are enrolled in courses approved by JTED and participating school districts.
The new bill would fund ninth-graders who are enrolled in agriscience, automotive technologies, construction trades, engineering and manufacturing classes.
Freshmen at Lee Williams and Kingman high schools have been taking Career and Technical Education classes all along, but the school district hasn’t received funding for them, said Amy West, executive director of Western Arizona Vocational Education JTED.
SB1269 is one of four legislative pieces that JTED administrators have been following and weighing in with lawmakers, West said.
“Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t,” she said. “You’d think they would want to know what JTED thinks about it. This is something that business and industry has been carrying on for us. They’re the ones stepping up and testifying on why this is really important.”
Erin Hart, chief operating officer of Expect More Arizona, said SB1269 is a “good start” to restoring funding for Career and Technical Education courses that was cut during the 2010 Legislature.
Full restoration would amount to about $15 million, Hart said.
“That means that students miss out on a year of building real-life work skills that lead to industry certifications, well-paying jobs and postsecondary credentials after high school,” she said.
“As this moves forward, we still need to focus on the restoration of full funding so that all ninth-graders who want to participate in CTE programs have the opportunity.”
Citizens of Mohave County and La Paz counties voted in 2008 to form a Joint Technical Education District in partnership with six high schools, including Kingman and Lee Williams.
JTED functions as an independent school district, providing vocational and technical education that’s needed to keep students in school and prepare them for the workforce.
The governing board, comprised of one member from each participating school district, works closely with local employers to identify and define work skills needed in the area.
The bill has the support of the Kingman and Mohave Manufacturing Association (KAMMA), which sent a letter to the governor in support of restoring the funding.
“It’s just a very positive educational program,” West said. “When you look at the things we do, we promote student leadership for students from rural areas going to competition at regional and state levels.”
America’s workforce is aging rapidly, and West said she heard a statistic that students today will have 15 to 17 jobs in their lifetime, probably in the same career “arena,” but they need to move up in that arena.
“I tell students the neat thing with JTED is we’re a stepping point and launching pad with multiple exit points,” West said.
For example, a student in the nursing program can pick up a Certified Nursing Assistant degree while in high school, and advance to a two-year Registered Nurse program at Mohave Community College.
“It allows us to start students in programs sooner,” West said of fourth-year JTED funding. “Once we get them in, they can move further along. Maybe there’s programs we haven’t been able to build up enough.”
Education metrics show that only 42 percent of Arizona’s workforce in ages 25 to 64 have a two- or four-year degree or some type of industry certification, when that number needs to be 68 percent, said Donna Davis, community engagement manager for Expect More Arizona.
Allowing students to take career classes in ninth grade sets them up for success, giving them a chance to try something they might like.
“If they love it, they can focus future classes around that career path. And if they hate it, it means they haven’t wasted a lot of time or dollars going into a postsecondary option after high school only to find out the that they don’t really want to do this,” Davis said.
“All of this is so important for Kingman. I’ve talked to the mayor before about students getting some kind of postsecondary training after high school, but they need to come back to Kingman.”
Carol Gunnerson, CTE director for Kingman Unified School District, said restoration of ninth-grade funding helps pay for projects and certificates students use in those classes.
“Technology in today’s world includes various equipment run by computerization and other technologies like clean power options and new processes,” she said. “To receive certifications and licenses, students need the know-how for these on industry items which are usually expensive.”