More than 7,000 Pima County ninth-graders won't be able to take career and technical-education classes next year following a decision by the Arizona Legislature.
The state Senate and House voted to permanently stop funding for freshmen enrolled in Joint Technical Education Districts across Arizona for a savings of $29 million.
Pima County's Joint Technical Education offers courses at satellite locations in local high schools and at JTED central campuses. Programs include bioscience, nursing, engineering, culinary arts, business administration and automotive technologies.
Without that money, local school districts will have to come up with alternative means of funding the classes - an unlikely situation as districts are forced to deal with budget cuts of their own, said Pima County JTED Superintendent Alan Storm.
"This is a huge loss to the students - we're not just talking money here," Storm said. "The ideal time to get kids onto a pathway for these various careers is as freshmen. That's when we can really get their attention."
Added Pima County JTED Governing Board member Mary Jondrow: "We can't afford not to give our students an advantage in the agriscience, bioscience and engineering fields, yet those programs will likely be affected."
The Legislature's decision essentially goes against what Pima County voters supported in 2006, Storm said.
At the time, voters agreed to raise property taxes to enhance career and technical-education programs for high school students.
In addition to the elimination of 9th-grade funding, the Pima County JTED will face a $2 million cut to capital and soft capital.
Storm estimates that 60 to 70 pink slips could be handed out among the nearly 300 career and technical-education teachers locally.
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at email@example.com or 573-4175.