STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The first meeting of the Native American Caucus in 2016 focused on education, workforce development and Joint Technical Education Districts.
“There was a wonderful turnout to the first Native American Caucus meeting, which focused on JTEDs and the value they bring to students in Native American Nations and students throughout Arizona,” Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), said.
JTEDs offer career and technical education courses to high school students and adults interested in job training. These courses include training in highly skilled fields like welding, cosmetology and nursing.
Some program participants attended the meeting. A Northern Arizona Technical Institute of Vocational Education JTED graduate attributed his ability to provide for his family to his experience in the program. A current student in the Pima JTED told caucus members that the program will give her the opportunity to work as a nurse while she attends college, instead of earning minimum wage at an entry-level position.
“Because many of Arizona’s Native American nations are in rural areas, high school students there often struggle to find employment. JTEDs provide important skills that make students employable by the time they graduate from high school. This is why these programs are so valuable to our students and vital to our state’s economy,” Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson (District 3), said.
A study done by the Morrison Institute, entitled “On the Rise,” details the positive effects JTEDs have on student performance. For example, students in the Mesa Public Schools are 79 percent less likely to drop out of high school when they take two career and technical education courses.
Despite the benefits to individual students and Arizona’s economy that come from career and technical education programs, Republican leaders last year cut $30 million from JTED funding. JTEDs used to be offered for all high school students, beginning in ninth grade. Cuts in state funding have now limited student eligibility to high school juniors and seniors.
“Full funding of JTEDs is important because success depends on education. This education should be available beginning at the ninth-grade level for all students,” Rep. Jennifer Benally, D-Tuba City (District 7), said.
The Native American Caucus will meet biweekly to discuss issues affecting Arizona’s Native American populations. The caucus will next meet on Friday, February 11, 2016 for presentations on gaming and taxation on Native American lands. The meetings are open to the public.