AZ Budget Cuts Could Shut High School Freshmen Out of Some Classes

July 06, 2011

High school freshmen in Arizona who want to take career and technical education courses could be out of luck next school year. 

The new state budget adopted this spring eliminates funding for 9th graders in subjects like engineering, culinary arts and automotive repair.  They’re known as JTed classes…and the cut will cost the 13 districts statewide almost 30 million dollars.  From Phoenix, KJZZ’s Mark Brodie reports.

 The Maze of the World

It’s go time in Mike Maguire’s Principles of Engineering class at Verrado High School in Buckeye.  His students spent three weeks designing and building a remote controlled robot car…and their Maze of the World for it to run through.

Maguire’s students are freshmen through seniors…and take the Joint Technological Education District class through the Western Maricopa Education Center, or West-Mec.  The district expects the 9th grade cut to cost it about a third of its budget…more than seven million dollars.  Maguire doesn’t know what that will mean for his class…but he’s not optimistic. 

(I can’t believe it’ll get better….I mean, we’re gonna lose some things, already some of the teachers have to chip in to buy supplies and whatnot…a lot of this equipment is expensive, and if we don’t get it, this will suffer.)

The state gives school districts a set amount of money per full time student…and an additional percentage of that to pay for J-Ted classes, based on how long students are in them.  It’s that money J-Teds stand to lose.

(We think we are filling a very necessary gap in the economic development chain, and that by cutting off part of this pipeline, we are doing some long term potential damage.)

Ray Polvani is the Superintendent of Mountain Institute JTed, in Prescott.  This past school year, freshmen accounted for close to half of his 25-hundred students…he says that means his district will lose almost half of its total budget…just more than a million dollars.  He calls the cut shortsighted.

(When you are cutting out the 9th grade, you’re cutting out the foundational piece, for youngsters who are now getting into a coherent program leading towards some potential future job opportunity or additional education.)

Polvani says many of the areas of study are not just a course or two…but rather two to three years worth of classes.  Not all JTeds, though, think the cut will be as detrimental.

(We do not anticipate a huge impact.)

Rusty Bowers is with the East Valley Institute of Technology.  Bowers says the cut will hurt…but not as much as it would have, if the state had cut funding for upper classmen.

(The 9th graders, while it may be something that tickles their fancy, or they may have an inclination, they don’t have yet the maturity to really take professional quality, industry standard training.)


(I would have had no idea I had a talent for architecture…I would have known nothing about it.)

That’s Ryan Verpooten.  He just finished his freshman year at Shadow Ridge High School in Surprise…and took an architecture class there through West-Mec.  He also took the gold medal in the statewide Skills USA competition…and placed fifth nationally, out of 47 competitors. He says had he not been able to take the class this past year, it would have, in his words, changed everything.

But some doubt 9th graders will be shut out of JTed classes in the fall. 

Freshman State Representative Chester Crandell expects districts will continue to fund at least some of the freshmen.  The Heber Republican voted for the cut….but the former Superintendent of the Northern Arizona Vocation Institute of Technology JTed says it wasn’t an easy decision.

(We needed to balance the budget and we need to balance it structurally and we couldn’t have any gimmicks or anything to do that.

Q: Was it a difficult vote for you to push the green button on this one?
A: Oh big time, you bet it was.  You know, having been a JTed superintendent for 9, 10 years, it’s tough to cut a fourth of your funding, and that’s basically what it comes down to.)

But some districts stand to lose more than that.  A spokesman for Pima County JTed says almost 37 percent of its students this past year were freshmen…and that cutting their funding will cost the district close to eight million dollars.  He says with very few exceptions, 9th graders will not be able to take JTed classes in Pima County next school year.


Back in Mike Maguire’s engineering class at Verrado High School, the robot is nearing the maze’s final gate.  Junior Austin, who helped program the robot, says the class will help him pursue his goal of becoming an aerospace engineer.

(Makes me feel like a jump start on getting into the engineering field, and really makes me feel a little more confident about what I want to do…instead of going into college, being like, what do I want to do…(laugh))

Many JTed administrators say they recognize the state’s budget problems…and acknowledge some cuts are needed.  But, they worry that by eliminating funding for 9th graders, the state will make it more difficult for students who know what they want to do…to do it.

For kjzz, I’m mark brodie.