Career and Technical Education

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The FY2012 state budget eliminates career and technical education funding for 9th grade students. Find out how that impacts Arizona’s efforts to prepare high school students for the workforce. Guests include Carolyn Warner, co-chair of the Arizona Skill Standards Commission; Jac Heiss, superintendent of the Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology; and Brandon Ames, CEO of ABLE Information Technologies.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Arizona leaders in business and industry are working with state government to make sure high school students are ready for the workforce. But state budget cuts may prevent some kids from enrolling in the programs. The state budget for 2012 no longer provides funding for ninth graders to participate in career and technical education or CTE. In a moment, we'll find out how that will impact public education, but first, here's a brief look at what CTE is all about.

Narrator: Learning skills and exploring careers. That's how many Arizona high school students spend parts of their day, taking classes that appeal to them and make learning a bit more relevant.

>> It's an opportunity for students to truly make connections between what they are going to do in school and what they'll later do in life. And when the students see the value and relevance of education, those are students who are engaged, who come to school every day and who are successful.

Narrator: These types of skill based courses are classified as CTE, Career and Technical Education.

>> To operate a top quality career and technical education program costs a lot of money. Equipment changes constantly. And you can't train your students on obsolete pieces of equipment.

>> Years ago, when a student participated in vocational education would have a narrow range of options which might be woodshop, what we use to call home EC or perhaps business. Today, that list of options includes everything from biotechnology, to nursing, to allied health programs such as pharmacy tech and medical engineering. And the list goes on and on.

Narrator: Providing career and technical education can be very expensive and cost prohibitive. That's why in 1990 a state law was passed to allow two or more school districts to join together and form a joint tech education district, or JTED. These JTEDS are funded much like school districts, but they exist solely to prove the availability and quality of career and technical education.

Ted Simons: And joining me now to talk about career and technical education are former state superintendent of schools Carolyn Warner, who now co-chairs the Arizona skill standards commission. Jac Heiss, superintendent of the Coconino association for industry, vocations and technology, a J-TED serving students in Coconino county. He's also chairman of the Arizona J-TED administrators association. And Brandon Ames, the CEO of able information technologies, an I.T. company based in Chandler. Good to have you all here. Thanks for joining us.

All: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Alright let's start with the training cut for 9th graders, I think it's a 29 some odd million dollar cut, 35-40% of the budget. Impact on the state?

Carolyn Warner: As far as economic development is concerned for the future of Arizona, it is somewhat of a tsunami. It's burying our young people who should have an opportunity to be exposed to job readiness who will not have that opportunity now. It's going to have a long-term economic impact that's very negative.

Ted Simons: Will they just not have this opportunity or did they not just have it in the ninth grade and have to wait for it? How does this work?

Jac Heiss: All of the above Ted. Students in our high schools currently have the option of taking a career and technical education class either in the 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grade but when you cut the funding for the freshmen out of the equation, that's leaves just three years that the students have an opportunity to fit a career and technical education class into a real crowded schedule. In that regard, it's going to probably diminish the number of students who are ever going to have an opportunity to participate. And another factor that we want to bring your attention to is the fact that students have to take AIMS tests now in the tenth grade to graduate from high school and if they have not passed that tenth grade AIMS test they're probably going to be in remedial classes from that point on and those students will be taken out of the mix. The best opportunity to participate is ninth, tenth grade.

Carolyn Warner: Let me mention that, students in the career and technical education passed AIMS test at a much higher percentage rate than students in the regular academy program. So to cut out the ninth graders who understand the relevance of what they're learning in terms of application and do well on the AIMS test is also going to bring our AIMS test scores down, correct?

Jac Heiss: I would suspect so.

Ted Simons: Brandon, I want to get you in on this as well. Again, funding for ninth graders, additional funding, gone. It's out of there. Is it a tsunami? Is it that important to get those 9th graders on board?

Brandon Ames: Ted, here's the deal. We educate students to be productive members of society and educate them to provide job readiness at some point along their career and education, whether it be high school or post-secondary technical education or through college. The largest majority of students don't go on to post-secondary so we want them job ready when they exit high school. I hire these young kids, we're about to face on of the most significant shortages in workforce over the next 20 years with the baby boom generation reaching retirement age which means these kids need to come out of school ready to go into the workforce.

Carolyn Warner: What Brandon has said is already beginning to have impact. We have employers every day saying I can't find skilled trained people to hire for my business or industry, correct?

Jac Heiss: Correct.

Ted Simons: Jac, I want to talk to you about now the difference between the J-TEDs and this kind of education in urban areas and what this mean, the cuts, for those students in rural areas.

Jac Heiss: It affects everybody, whether you're urban or rural. But in the rural areas perhaps more profoundly because over the past several years, just about every traditional form of elective a student has to take has been diminished or cut altogether. Music, band, art, those classes are gone. So oftentimes, the one elective that a child or student might have during the day might be a career and technical education class and if we're cutting into that mix, there's a reduction in opportunity there as well.

Brandon Ames: Ted, let's be clear about one thing. Right now in this state, we're funded 49th out of 50 states as far as funding.

Carolyn Warner: Mississippi, thank God for Mississippi. [Laughter]

Brandon Ames: As far as funding for students in the state, it's -- the teacher, the administrations are already having do more with less than any other state in the union. And when we start looking at that, and some of these additional cuts, I don't know where we're going to come up with -- with the -- the resources to put productive I members out there into society.

Ted Simons: Senate president Russell Pearce during voting for this was saying a variety of things. Not the least of which was that the school districts can still do it, they just don't have the additional funding. Is that accurate?

Carolyn Warner: It is childlike to think about school districts having sufficient funding to make up any kind of shortfall. The fact of the matter is our school districts have been cut by almost a third in terms of funding over the last three years and this additional one is just like one more chop of the ax. It is unconscionable if you care about the future. It is unbelievable, if you plan for the future in the state of Arizona to do this.

Ted Simons: What about the idea from some lawmakers that this has to be done to protect K-12 from further cuts?

Jac Heiss: I think they're very sincere. Many of those folks that we spoke to afterwards, I think they really truly believed it was going to spare K-12 from further budget cuts but the reality is --

Carolyn Warner: This is K-12.

Jac Heiss: It is K-12, but the reality is that when the J-TEDs don't have the money to pay for the classes and the teachers and instruction for the ninth graders and those students have to go somewhere and they're going back into the regular school system and they don't have money to hire extra teachers, you're looking at --

Carolyn Warner: Those classes are already so over-crowded we'll have classrooms -- in Detroit, they've having classes of 60 in a class. I don't know whether they're doing them in double tiers or how they're handling it. There's not that much square footage in the average classroom. But we're rapidly approaching that point so that a young person will be ill-advised to believe they can get a quality education.

Ted Simons: As a young person, you got a technical education and obviously succeeded and then some with that education and other aspects of go to it there. So talk to us, how did it affected your life, what you got from it and what you're hoping other kids will get from it.

Brandon Ames: Well as a product of career and technical education, back then it was called vocational education and I was real fortunate to have a business Ed teacher that through typing and accounting and cost accounting and business law and those classes was prepared to not only go on to college but to actually run a business in high school. And run the accounting of it as well as the rest of it before I moved on and moved down here to Arizona. The importance of it is I found a passion behind something that engaged the other academic learning I had and that's what career and technical education is about. In those formative years as freshmen when they come in, they're grasping to understand why I need algebra and why I need math and why I need English. What's the relevance here? And career and technical education gives them that, especially on the tails of the bell curve where they're either falling off the back or wondering why they're not getting engaged on the front.

Carolyn Warner: Ted, there was just a report released from the Harvard graduate school of education, which is the academic guru group in America. Is that a fair statement?

Jac Heiss: That's correct.

Carolyn Warner: Every report they put out is poured over by educators and those who care about the future. They have just put out a report called "pathways to prosperity." Pathways to prosperity, they claim, and I believe it to be absolutely true, is to begin to refocus on the word "work." W-O-R-K, four-letter word, can't help that. And that if we don't do it, Arizona and America will slip from being the number one nation in the world to second and perhaps third rank. We can't afford to let that to happen.

Ted Simons: We can't afford for that to happen. So when we have these kinds of budget cuts and the criticisms that we had from senate president Pearce who actually said there we were the only one J-TED in the state and that was in the east valley and that the others were for the idle rich, I think that was his exact quote. I think his concern was a difference between a central campus and the satellite campuses out there where it's maybe easier to see or overlook, whatever his concerns were. The satellite campuses didn't make quite as much -- is there room to reconfigure? Can it be looked at again? What's going on here?

Carolyn Warner: Jac, before you answer that -- [Laughter] -- he's from the east valley. Excuse me, you go ahead and answer the question.

Jac Heiss: I wasn't trying to be generous. Obviously we J-TEDs, the other 12 in the state need to do a better job to communicating to the general public and senator Pearce who we are and what we do. But probably all would concur; you got more scholar for your dollar if you do have a central program offering. Students spend more than just one period a day as they're confined to in a satellite situation. But certainly our satellite programs produce great results. Tomorrow and the next day here in the valley, there will be the skills USA competition in downtown and it's free to the public at the convention center I believe and you'll see students from the east valley and other central programs around the state. They're going to be competing there and I know they'll do well but you'll also see students that just have the so-called satellite option also do extremely well and go on to nationals and we have a historical record of that.

Ted Simons: We only have a couple of minutes left. Brandon, I want to ask of you, I want to ask all three of you but we'll start with you Brandon, the idea of a business needing a certain type of student who has learned a certain type of thing, are we falling behind on this?

Brandon Ames: I think the state over the past 15 years has made significant growth in this area. And with the cuts that are coming down to step it back 15 years, just -- just breaks my heart, because through the work of these fine people here, we're graduating students in career and technical education 20 points higher on AIMS tests, 20 points.

Carolyn Warner: 20 points

Brandon Ames: Across all measurements, whether it be English, writing or math.

Carolyn Warner: Or science.

Brandon Ames: Or science and it's those types of things that we need to be real cognizant of.

Ted Simons: I'm going to interrupt think time. [Laughter] The skills and standards commission, you're part of that now. Again, how does that -- what are you seeing? What are you hearing? What are we doing?

Carolyn Warner: Well, Arizona Skills Standards Commission is co chaired by the superintendent of public instruction, John Huppenthal, who is doing a marvelous job in the -- his support of career and technical education and myself. So we co chair the Arizona Skills Standards Commission which is comprised of 40 leading business and industry representatives from all across the state of Arizona. But the mining industry, the health industry, the hospitality industry, machining and manufacturing, all of those, these business people come and sit down with educators such as Jac and they determine what the skills are that are specifically needed by their business and industry, and then that translates back into curriculum and then we assess everyone. We test every student that completes the program, give them a certificate so they can go to you and say, "Look, this is what I can do in communications."

Ted Simons: Close it out for us here. As far as what you hear from businesses when they say the student that was at your JTED or the student was involved in a school you're involved in or at least oversee, what are you hearing in terms of results? What are you hearing, I'd like to get more?

Jac Heiss: First of all, businesses are results oriented and they often say we don't want to pay any more taxes, you might hear that, but if they finish the sentence, they'll say we don't want to pay any more taxes unless we see results and I think that's a fair deal. We in the JTED and the current technical education part of education, we're ready for that challenge and we already got the results and we continue to -- we feel very confident that we can produce more in the future if given a chance but we really, seriously can't do it if we keep losing resources.

Ted Simons: OK. We have to stop it right there, great discussion. Thank you all for joining us we appreciate it.

Carolyn Warner: Thank you, Ted. Appreciate being here. [Laughter]

Carolyn Warner:co-chair, Arizona Skills Standards Commission;Jac Heiss:superintendent, Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology;Brandon Ames: CEO of ABLE Information Technologies;

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