Career and Technical Education Funding

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Career and technical education funding has taken a big hit in Arizona. Carolyn Warner, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction and chair of the Arizona Career and Technical Education Quality Skills Commission, and Dick Foreman, president and CEO of the Arizona Business & Education Coalition and a commission member, will talk about efforts to push back those funding cuts.

Ted Simons: Career and technical education funding is set to take a $30 million cut this year, a move that was approved by the legislature and signed by the governor last session, but backlash against the cuts is growing, and tonight we hear from those who want to see the cuts reversed. Here now is Carolyn Warner, former state Superintendent of Public Instruction and chair of the Arizona Career and Technical Education Quality Skills Commission, and commission member Dick Foreman, president and CEO of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition. Good to have you both here, thanks for joining us.

Dick Foreman: Glad to be here.

Ted Simons: Let's define terms. What's a JTED? What's CTE?

Carolyn Warner: Career and technical education. We live with these acronyms. JTEDs are joint technical education districts and there are districts throughout the state that provide specialized and highly technical educational opportunities for jobs for young people.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about what skills are learned out there? What jobs are filled?

Dick Foreman: It's a broad range. Everything from barber shops and beauty schools to highly technical careers, sciences, arts, air conditioning repairmen, automobile repairs, all kinds of machinery opportunities and high-tech opportunities, it's a very varied field of opportunity.

Ted Simons: And I heard what 90,000 or so enrolled around the state?

Dick Foreman: A little over 100,000 last I checked.

Ted Simons: And the graduate rate for those folks in those programs?

Carolyn Warner: 98% of the high school students that are in CTE programs graduate from high school. It is the best dropout prevention program of any other considerable event. Nobody can beat that rate.

Ted Simons: I want to get to some questions folks have but $30 million cut this year. There are plans in the works, the governor wants $10 million for the next three years, per year, grant programs, you have to have a course that has a business that really needs it. Makes sense to you?

Carolyn Warner: Well, yes if they restored the $30 million and add $10 million a year for certified program. That would be great. I would applaud the governor for that.

Ted Simons: But it sounds as though he wants certified programs only.

Carolyn Warner: That will eliminate a third of the career and technical education courses in the state of Arizona. We'll lose the teachers, we'll lose the students, it will be a disaster for economic development in Arizona.

Ted Simons: There are some that say this could be death to CTE in Arizona. Is that an overstatement?

Dick Foreman: Many of the core or central CTE providers in the JTED districts that have a central campus, they have great resiliency and they have a firm, large home but if you're looking a lot of the students that we also obviously care about across the state, the rural CTE courses I would say they're in big trouble if we don't address this and again, fortunately I think hopefully, we're going to be chatting about there are measures to address that in the legislature which we're very grateful for.

Carolyn Warner: The sad part of it, if this $30 million is not restored for this year we will lose not only programs but we will lose the teachers and trying to get those skilled teachers back will be an incredible job.

Ted Simons: And I want to make sure we know there's $50 million projected funding with the $10 million from the governor, I think it's 41 plus the 10. There's $51 million out there for these schools. So the money will be there, but the short-term impact?

Carolyn Warner: A third of the programs will close.

Ted Simons: And that affects the economy how?

Carolyn Warner: Those young people that would have been trained to go into the workforce either immediately or in the near future will simply not have that opportunity. Their academic programs will be where they are or in some cases they will just drop out for lack of interest. CTE motivates young people and it gives them a purpose. And many of them go on to higher education and move all the way up the ladder.

Dick Foreman: And in many of the smaller towns where we see the rural Arizona, the educational opportunities there are among the largest employers. They're among the largest economic activity generators and so if you take out 30% of your CTE courses and those teachers it's going to have a disproportionate effect on rural Arizona.

Ted Simons: Should the legislature say okay you win, $30 billion, we'll send it back in there, off we go? It sounds like some folks are thinking there's not enough oversight of these JTEDs that the state needs to audit these JTEDs? I'm hearing some huffing over here!

Carolyn Warner: We also receive federal funding called the Perkins Grant. We are audited not only by the department of education and the state auditor general but we are also audited by federal auditors, both program audits and fiscal audits. It is the most accountable system that I know of.

Ted Simons: Why is the Senate president saying it hasn't been audited since 2004?

Dick Foreman: I don't know the answer to that but I can tell you coming from a business organization, accountability and transparency are important to us, too. We share that interest with the Senate president and others that are concerned about that. When we went back and looked at the statistics and we see in that 2013 an audit of over 6,500 CTE courses found eight that had questionable CTE compliance and that all eight of those courses were not funded by the CTE, in other words, their own audit procedures, their own policing took care of the questionable courses, we found zero for 6,500 in terms of quality. So I would say from a business side, that is a good story and my board would want transparency, my board would want accountability and that's what I look for is that kind of result.

Carolyn Warner: And Career and Technical Education instructors want accountability and they also are so proud of their students that graduate. We had two students last year that took an aviation program, they were hired by Southwest Airlines, these are high school graduates. Southwest Airlines at $30 an hour to work in their mechanics.

Ted Simons: But some that support the governor's program say there's an idea. You've got a business that's looking for X., Y., Z., grant the funding that way, off you go as opposed to blanket funding which again some are saying a little bit of mission creep going on here, some of these JTEDs aren't really JTEDs.

Carolyn Warner: They are JTEDs. The reason that JTED funding is in addition to normal academic funding is that, for example, in welding, you have to have state-of-the-art welding equipment. They cannot be trained on old equipment. They have to be state-of-the-art. Every welding student is hired upon graduation. We do not have enough.

Ted Simons: Well, then this information, 98% graduation rate, businesses they want it, right now, there's a hue and cry at the capitol, they've got enough lawmakers right now with a way to restore the cuts. Where was all this last year when this passed and the governor signed it?

Dick Foreman: I do believe the story and maybe I should refer to my chair but I don't believe this was a well-publicized cut, I believe it was a cut that was exercised at an odd time of day, perhaps in the middle of the night and by the time it was apparent that train had left the station, and I think we've seen the result from the community, both the business community and the education community, not just the CTE community, a reaction to that. And thankfully, I don't think the legislature, I think we can say that the legislature feels comfortable with that decision and that's why there's 72 sponsors of a bill to restore funding. That's a remarkable result.

Carolyn Warner: I think it was a mistake. I do not believe the legislature has ever turned its back on jobs in Arizona. This is economic development. And I don't think it was intentional. I think it was an error. And because of the rush to close that session quickly, and to adjourn and get people out of there, I think that a lot of the budget items were not carefully vetted. And it happened by mistake. I think that mistake will be corrected. We certainly hope so don't we?

Dick Foreman: We do. And again from the business side, I think we're very interested in working with the leadership and the governor to ensure that transparency and accountability meets every single test that it should meet. There's no desire to sweep anything under a rug. This is a very open community in my view and a very responsive community to that demand.

Ted Simons: Is it a community that's open to, as you mentioned, a little more transparency, a little more streamlining, a little bit more efficiency, can it be found out there?

Dick Foreman: I think it can. I think you can always improve systems. I think the system when it was tested by the audit of 2013 demonstrated that it was doing pretty darn well but you never stop, and I think those questions can be asked and I think they can continue to be developed.

Carolyn Warner: Other states and Dick can give you line and verse, are funding career and technical education into the millions of dollars. They are increasing their funding for that because we're in competition with them. They want the jobs. And business and industry will not come to Arizona if we do not have a trained workforce. So this is economic development pure and simple.

Ted Simons: And are you hearing from business and industry?

Dick Foreman: We indeed are. We meet with the heads of the economic development authorities, the state commerce authorities, we're very tuned in to their concerns and although many times these discussions with potential businesses coming to Arizona are obviously kept confidential, the list of examples would fill this room with companies that have said but you just aren't meeting the needs of our industry level workforce. We hear that over and over. It's beyond anecdote. It's well documented. And there's some companies that are willing to go on record and say we didn't come to Arizona because you didn't care enough about your education system.

Carolyn Warner: At the very moment that we're speaking, State Farm is building a new facility; they'll be hiring 7,000 or 8,000 employees. They are looking for employees. They ran an ad in the paper. They're running three shifts and we have students in CTE programs that can be prepared for those jobs that are now available.

Ted Simons: All right. We've got to stop you right there. We'll see what happens. It sounds like it will get restored at the legislature but we'll find out. Good to have you both.

Dick Foreman: It's good to be here.

Carolyn Warner: Enjoyed being here.

Ted Simons: That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.

Carolyn Warner: Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction and chair of the Arizona Career and Technical Education Quality Skills Commission,
Dick Foreman: President and CEO of the Arizona Business & Education Coalition

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