West-MEC Technical Education District Looks To Voters For Funding

Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - 3:32pm
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(Photo by Lauren Gilger - KJZZ)
Students at West-MEC participate in the district’s fire science program.
Lauren Gilger/KJZZ
Students learn at West-MEC’s Aviation Maintenance and Technology class.

With all of the high-profile races this election season, local, down ballot races can get lost.

Voters in the West Valley will be seeing another issue on their ballot on Nov. 8, asking them to vote "Yes" or "No" for a $141 million bond to fund West-MEC, or the Western Maricopa Education Center District. West-MEC is a joint technical-education public-school district — or a JTED — that aims to prepare 29,000 West Valley students at 46 high schools to enter the workforce.

The bond would cost homeowners about $6 a year for property assessed up to $100,000 to fund West-MEC’s expansion, which the district’s superintendent Greg Donovan called a reasonable tax.

“All of that money goes to improving and adding student programs,” Donovan said. “We have two campuses which are not yet complete and so a significant amount of the money goes to those campuses.”

Their newest campus is in Surprise and, if this bond is passed, West-MEC would be able to offer up to 20 different career programs there.

The money would also allow them to expand from 20 programs to 40 programs, according to Donovan.

“If we continue to grow over the next ten years at the rate we have been growing, it would give us some money, then, to seek another site and to add additional programs,” he said. Donovan said they have several programs with waiting lists and are being asked to do more all the time.

West-MEC offers programs that prepare students for industry credentials, not minimum-wage jobs, Donovan said. The district offers programs like medical assisting, pharmacy tech, auto collision repair, veterinary assistant, and training in construction trades.

“This is about economic development and this is about making sure our young people have saleable skills,” Donovan said. He said, while it’s important to go to school and be educated, “we all work for a living.” So, they aim to help young people find and stay in good career paths.

According to Donovan, 98 percent of students involved in career and technical education graduate from high school. That’s higher than the state’s graduation rate of 76 percent.

“It was not education in the abstract, it was education that was hands-on and real,” he said, “and so all pieces of education began to make sense to that student.”

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