Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed state budget included some funding for the state’s Joint Technical Education Districts, but those in charge of educating students say it’s not enough to keep the education system afloat.
The proposal is to create a grant-based funding source, but it could spell the end of the JTED system within the next two years, said Alan Storm, superintendent of the Pima County JTED
JTED programs run in conjunction with school districts throughout the state. They teach students skills and train them for careers such as auto mechanics, culinary fields and cosmetology. They are designed as an option for students who seek a career that does not necessarily require a college degree.
JTED funding has been on the decline for years. Another $30 million cut is planned for the fiscal year that begins in July.
Ducey’s proposed budget does not restore those operating fund cuts. Instead, Ducey proposes a three-year grant program, allowing $10 million a year to fund JTED. The JTED programs throughout the state would also have to find matching funds from private businesses to secure the grant funding.
“That’s pretty difficult to ask businesses to do when they’re struggling in the economy that we have,” Storm said.
And without the operating funds, the grant is less useful than it sounds, he said.
“Without that $30 million, we won’t be around to apply for those funds,” Storm said.
Gadabout SalonSpas has hired JTED graduates for years, said owner Frank Westerbeke. His daughter also got her cosmetology education through JTED.
He said those employees stand out.
“They’re above average employees for our company. They are passionate about what they do, so for us it was easy to see an alliance,” he said.
But hiring JTED graduates and providing further on-the-job training for them is not the same as providing matching funds to maintain the JTED education system, Westerbeke said.
“To make the matching funds, it would be impossible for us to do that,” Westerbeke said.
If the program goes away, “the pool of people to employ would diminish tremendously,” Westerbeke said.
Effort to Restore Funding
A concerted effort is underway among JTED program directors and state lawmakers to avoid the $30 million operating budget cut next year.
“I’m asking the legislature not to cut the $30 million that is proposed for July 1,” Storm said.
Storm said it’s a program that helps boost the state economy, not drain the economy.
“They’re finishing high school at 17, 18, 19 years old. They have a state license, and they’re taxpayers,” he said. “It’s good for the economy, it’s good for building the business.”
Storm said the Greater Phoenix Leadership group and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council support the effort to fund JTED because it expands the taxpaying workforce.
In 2010 the Pima County JTED had 22,000 students in Pima County in the program. In this school year, there are 15,580 students, and a budget of about $19 million.
“Looking at another cut, it will be virtually impossible for us to survive as a school district,” Storm said.