- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona House committee on Monday unanimously approved a proposal restoring nearly all the cuts made to high school career and technical education programs last year, setting the stage for the full House to consider the emergency legislation.

House Bill 2642 could be taken up by the House this week, and companion legislation is expected to move in the Senate as well.

The 7-0 vote in the House Education Committee comes just days after Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, unveiled an agreement restoring $28 million of the $30 million cut set to go into effect on July 1.

The proposal also contains new audits of the special programs and will cut off students who have already graduated from high school to save $2 million.

Shooter urged the committee not to try to amend the legislation beyond agreements made by lawmakers, schools and the governor’s office.

“It’s a very tenuous situation. And this was an agreement that has taken a lot of blood sweat and tears to make, and I am afraid if we tinker with it very much it will fall apart,” Shooter said. “As a matter of fact I can tell you that it will.”

“It’s not perfect, but let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good - it’s almost miraculous,” he said.

The $30 million cut - nearly half the $70 million a year appropriated to the 14 Joint technical Education Districts each year - was made in the last hours before a budget emerged last March and got little immediate attention. But soon after, districts digesting the cut realized many of the JTEDs could be forced to shut down because of the cuts set to take effect July 1.

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.

The deal emerged after months of negotiations and just two weeks after veto-proof House and Senate majorities co-sponsored a bill repealing the entire $30 million cut.

Rep. John Ackerley, R-Tucson, said the bill was essentially sponsored by the entire House because 51 of 60 members signed on as sponsors.

“As an educator, I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see the impacts that these programs make in students’ lives,” Ackerley, a high school teacher, told the committee.

“I don’t have the words to really describe the feeling you get when you see a student who as a sophomore was a lost cause, barely there, and making efforts every day to try to engage them,” he said. “But when they return a senior in their nursing scrubs, talking about their future plans, that is just an amazing sight. These programs definitely have a huge impact on students’ lives.”

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