Local lawmakers toured high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes Tuesday to get a taste of the different skills and specialties students can learn while still in high school.
State Representative Bob Thorpe and State Senators Sylvia Allen and Carlyle Begay toured classes at Flagstaff High School and Coconino High School, walking through welding, automotive, woodworking and digital media classes.
FUSD Superintendent Barbara Hickman said seeing these classes is important for lawmakers, because CTE classes took a financial hit after the state’s latest budget passage.
“We believe strongly that these classes are exactly what the state has asked us to do,” Hickman said. “Arizona asks schools to produce college and career-ready kids and that’s exactly what these classes are doing.”
In Coconino County, some CTE classes are provided by Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology (CAVIAT), which is supported by a voter-approved tax. CAVIAT Superintendent Brent Neilson said CAVIAT brings about $1 million into FUSD for those classes.
CAVIAT also hosts classes through Coconino Community College, at its Flagstaff location on Fourth Street, and at its other locations in Page, the Grand Canyon and Fredonia. The partnership is called a Joint Technical Education District (JTED).
Many of the classes allow students to receive dual credit from their high school and Coconino Community College courses. Students do not have to pay regular college tuition for the classes, so they can receive the credits at a lower cost.
Thorpe said he thought it was “wonderful” students could graduate from high school while already accumulating college credits.
“This gives the kids a head start,” he said. “These kids will have a better foundation about what they want to go into after school.”
Thorpe said he was one of many legislators concerned about JTED funding, and said one of his hopes was for students participating to graduate and go to college or enter the workforce to improve Arizona.
“I can really see the dedication in the students and in the teachers in these classes,” he said.
Lawmakers and guests were treated to lunch and desserts served by the schools’ culinary students, and saw projects completed by CHS interior design and digital media students.
Students displayed work they had completed in class and related clubs, including a prize-winning picnic table and barbecue grill made by welding students, a wind-energy generator, decorative woodwork and a redesign of the CHS teachers’ lounge.
Allen said she would like to see restoration and support for CTE programs in the future.
“These are the programs that really keep kids in school,” she said. “As for funding, that is a complicated issue because there is such a demand on all of the money.”
Begay, a CHS alumnus, said he wished there had been engineering classes like the Coconino Institute of Technology at the high school when he had been there.
Begay said he thought of CTE programs as “workforce development” that will benefit students and businesses as classes align more with what businesses expect for their employees after graduation.
“When looking at education, we need to be looking at the practical aspects, like CTE,” he said. “In these classes, students can apply what they’ve learned so they see that it’s not just theoretical.”