- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Lawmakers reached a deal Thursday on a proposal restoring nearly all the cuts to high school career and technical education programs made in the last legislative session.

Sen. Don Shooter said the deal restores $28 million of the $30 million in cuts set to go into effect on July 1. Legislation will be introduced Thursday in both chambers and go before appropriations committees next week.

Shooter said the deal contains new audits, a new school grading system and will cut off students who have already graduated from high school to save $2 million.

Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, said the governor looks forward to reviewing the legislation if it reaches his desk.

The bill must be accompanied by language in the upcoming 2017 state budget, but Shooter promised that wasn’t “monkey business” and was needed because last year’s cuts were in the fiscal year 2016 budget.

The developments come two weeks after veto-proof House and Senate majorities co-sponsored bills repealing the entire $30 million cut. Shooter has been leading the charge to restore the funding to career and technical programs and for 14 special school districts known as Joint Technical Education Districts, or JTEDs.

Nearly 100,000 Arizona high school students are enrolled in JTEDs programs. They offer classes in health, technology, construction, auto mechanics and other skills around their regions or in stand-alone schools. More are in career programs in their local districts.

Many of the JTEDs warned that they could be forced to shut down because of the cuts.

“It’s tremendously important, not just for the business community but these kids’ lives,” Shooter said of technical education programs. “These are the kids that struggle. They’re not particularly good at academics, but they are fantastic as a carpenter, construction person, car mechanic.”

Shooter, R-Yuma, noted that the programs have a 98 percent graduation rate compared with 72 percent statewide for regular high school students.

“This is a segment of education that just makes all the sense in the world,” Shooter said. “If you don’t give these kids skills, what are they going to do? This allows them to become taxpayers and productive, and I just couldn’t let it go by.”

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