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House Committee Votes To Restore Funding To Arizona Technical Education

The Arizona House Education Committee moved quickly Monday to restore funding for high school career and technical education programs.

Called Joint Technical Education Districts, the programs are facing a $30 million cut in the budget passed last year amid fears the state was in red ink. That turned out not to be true.

Still, Gov. Doug Ducey proposed restoring only $10 million-- and only for three years. That didn't go over well. So lawmakers crafted their own plan and made it clear to the governor that they have the votes.

Rep. Chris Ackerley, R-Sahaurita, who teaches high school physics, said these programs have a major impact on students' lives. "I don't really have the words to describe the feeling that you get when you see a student who is a sophomore who is a lost cause, barely there, making every effort, every day, to try to engage them. But when they return as a senior in their nursing scrubs talking about their future plans, that is just an amazing sight."

The pressure to restore funding is not just from educators. Jessie Armendt of the Arizona Manufacturers Council told lawmakers the 4,500 companies in her organization that make everything from golf clubs to beer need the programs.

"These are good-paying jobs. Nevertheless, more than 80 percent of our manufacturers in the state can't find enough employees when they're looking for employees with these skills," Armendt said. "And the JTEDs are fantastic at turning out students with skills so they can go right into the workforce and support business and industry in Arizona and help us attract other manufacturers to our state."

An identical measure is making its way through the Senate.