Journal: Senate bill would restore CTE funding

Monday, February 19, 2018

Phoenix Business Journal posted a blog by Steve Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, saying that Arizona companies need to fill thousands of openings. "That’s good news for the state," wrote Zylstra. "The bad news is we may not have enough talent to fill these spots with Arizonans as fast as needed. But our Legislature has the opportunity to approve a remedy that could prevent dilemmas like this for years to come.

"The solution comes from the career and technical education programs that plant the seeds as early as high school for talent to be groomed to enter careers that can start as soon as graduation day. In Arizona, there is a network of joint technical education districts created to deliver the CTE programs to high school students. When they launched in 1990, JTEDs served freshmen through seniors. But the Great Recession triggered some belt-tightening, prompting Arizona lawmakers to vote in 2011 to cut JTED funding for ninth-grade programs. It’s time to get that year back.

"The connection between the CTE experience and students sticking with high school through graduation was demonstrated in a 2013 study from Morrison Institute for Public Policy (On the Rise: The Role of Career and Technical Education in Arizona's Future). Tucson Unified School District students taking three or more CTE classes in the same program area had a 20 percent to 60 percent reduction in the likelihood of dropping out. For a group from Mesa Public Schools, taking two CTE classes was correlated with a 79 percent lower likelihood.

"I conveyed the findings and the immediate need for new employees while testifying in support of SB1269 before the Senate Education Committee chaired by Sen. Sylvia Allen, the lead sponsor of the measure. If passed, funding would be restored to support ninth-grade JTED students.

"I was encouraged to see after my testimony that members of the committee present voted 6-0 in favor of SB1269. However, we’re not out of the woods. Allen said the ultimate decision will come when restoration of funding is part of the final discussion about the state’s annual budget.

"SB1269 needs support. Funding restoration approved now will pay dividends for years to come as our state offers the workforce talent that companies need," Zylstra concluded.

READ: Time to restore funding to begin career paths earlier