Career Technical Education (CTE), once known as vocational education, is vital to Arizona students and their future. CTE programs are aligned with the needs of industries, and we are proud to work with them to help students learn real-life work skills and careers, enabling them to get a head start on their chosen professions while they are still in high school.
Across Arizona, there are 1,670 CTE program courses offered in 72 occupational programs. More than 104,000 students benefit from the federal and state grants that fund these, without which it would be fiscally difficult for school districts to pay for on their own. With so many disciplines available for students to choose – from engineering to biotechnology to bioscience to automotive technology – the curricula is challenging and important, filling not only industry needs, but also providing opportunities for students to grow academically in core academic subjects.
Moreover, CTE participants learn much more than one skill. In fact, AIMS test results find that CTE-enrolled high school students score higher overall in math, science and reading than average. In the past year, more than two-thirds of those who completed CTE courses went on to community college, or were placed in jobs or entered the military.
Clearly we are still in tough economic times and must tighten our belts to help balance the state’s budget. However, there are budget cuts that make sense, and others that set off a chain of lost funding that could cause more damage than it is worth. One of these examples is a proposed reduction of all but $57,700 of the $11.5 million Vocational Education Block Grant, which funds vital Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs across the state.
As proposed in Governor Jan Brewer’s state budget proposal, the cuts will have the impact of a row of dominoes falling: the state will lose nearly $26 million in federal Carl D. Perkins funds, effecting nearly $37 million in lost monies from CTE programs at high schools and occupational students at ten community college districts statewide.
The chain reaction that cutting state funding for CTE programs will start would be devastating to students who want to graduate high school ready to start their careers, or be well-prepared for community college or a university. Removing the state dollars that bring in the federal funding to make their goals possible would not only be a major setback to them, it would hurt Arizona overall, as industries scramble to find trained, qualified workers, and potentially leave the state.
Pam Ferguson is the Executive Director of The Association for Career and Technical Education of Arizona.