Arizona school districts won’t be able to use vocational funding for other purposes any longer, according to a state law going into effect in mid-August.
The law was passed during the recent legislative session after a February audit by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General found that several school districts were using some vocational education money for other expenses.
Because vocational education materials and supplies cost more than those needed in most academic classes, districts get 25 percent more funding for students enrolled in specific career and technical education courses.
Only career and technology classes considered satellite classes of the East Valley Institute of Technology get the extra funding.
Other vocational courses get regular per-student funding — a situation that suggested to auditors that districts used arrangements with EVIT in order to beef up their overall budgets.
That raised the ire of some.
"It irritates me to have them spend vocational money on band uniforms and on tractors in the maintenance department," said Keith Crandell, a founder and current board member for EVIT, which provides career and technical education for 10 East Valley school districts.
"Those are valid needs," he said. "But those are the responsibility of the district. We shouldn’t have to buy a bus for the football team."
Joel Wirth, associate superintendent for business in the Chandler Unified School District, said his district did spend the $2.8 million received this year on vocational education.
"We probably just need to do a little better job documenting that we’re spending it on satellites (classes)," he said.
However, because the vocational education needs vary year to year, the new law may make it difficult for school districts to budget in the future, he said. The state, though, is giving districts three years to phase in the policy.
Jim Lockwood, assistant superintendent of business in the Apache Junction Unified School District, said that while he prefers local control, he understands the state’s concern.
"We’ve always strived to make sure the dollars we’re expending, were spent for EVIT-related purposes," Lockwood said.