Editorial: VACTE consolidation concerns more rhetoric than reality

The concern over the future of vocational education in the Verde Valley should consolidation take place is far more anchored in rhetoric than reality.

Anti-consolidation forces would have you believe the Valley Academy for Career and Technical Education will go belly up should the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union districts merge into a unified district.

Don’t believe it for a second.

While VACTE has had its fair share of bumps in the road during its nearly two decades of service, the Voc-Ed program has never been on more firm ground since Camp Verde’s Bob Weir took over as superintendent. VACTE now offers six centralized technical education programs highlighted by a 7,700-square-foot career and technical education campus at 3405 E. SR 89A. VACTE’s overall student count has doubled under Weir’s guidance and he most recently was named the Career and Technical Education Administrator of the Year at the state conference of the Association for Career and Technical Education of Arizona.

The concern over VACTE’s future should consolidation occur deals with a malady common to every one of us: human error.

State Sen. Sylvia Allen is the first to admit that she is not immune.

As the person who drafted the modifications to Arizona law on school district consolidation – SB 1254 – Allen said the impact of such consolidations on Joint Technical Education Districts was completely overlooked.

“Unfortunately, when drafting the bill, VACTE was never even thought of,” Allen admits.

She is keenly aware of the oversight now, though, and does not believe it is a problem. JTED programs will not be victimized by school district consolidations, and VACTE, in particular, will not have to take backward steps should a merger of Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek occur.

“Just as the tax dollars will continue to move to the new district created by consolidation, that will be the same for VACTE,” Sen. Allen said in an email to The Verde Independent/Camp Verde Bugle. “I will carry legislation to make it statutorily clear.”

Further, she said, the political machinations needed to allow VACTE to streamline its place into a new consolidation structure will be completed even before Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek would be merged into a new unified district, should voters approve the change.

Further, Allen echoed the words of Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter when she emphasized that this consolidation election in the Verde Valley – barring a court order to cancel the election – is being closely watched by lawmakers and education officials throughout Arizona.

While there are 15 county government operations and 91 municipal governments in Arizona, there are 236 school districts. Allen said SB 1254 is a much-needed step in the direction toward simplifying the process to allow school districts to consolidate.

“I have had other calls from individuals who are interested in consolidation to save education dollars and would like to have more information,” the senator said. “I believe that we need to reform the consolidation process to make it more simple and easy to implement if communities are interested in increasing the dollars into the classroom through consolidation.”  

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