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Bill Passed To Strengthen Vocational Programs in Arizona

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The Arizona legislature has passed and sent to Gov. Bruce E. Babbitt a bill designed to strengthen vocational education programs in the state. He was expected to sign the bill last week.

Ray D. Ryan, the state's director of vocational education, said that the bill calls for the creation of a new deputy supervisor of vocational education. "Highlights" of the long and complicated bill, he said, are:

That there be two state deputy superintendents (there is now only one), one of whom would be responsible for vocational education.

That the state board of education meet a minimum of four times per year solely to discuss vocational-education matters.

That the state board of education and the state board of directors of community colleges prescribe standards for new programs in vocational education. This provision should also foster increased continuity in vocational-education courses offered by high schools and junior colleges, proponents of the bill say.

That a follow-up survey of vocational-education students and their employers be performed. The mechanics for gathering such information and plans for its use have not been fully worked out.

Also, a Senate resolution, which was approved by the legislature and will go before the state's voters this fall as a constitutional referendum, would increase the number of members on the state board of education from 9 to 15, including 5 representatives of business and industry.

The restructuring of the board has been the focus of some criticism, Mr. Ryan said. "Changing the board from 9 to 15 doesn't necessarily ensure a board that is more responsive to vocational education," he said.

Support for Vocational Education

Another complaint about the bill is that the legislature has not promised to follow it with any additional financial support for vocational education.

"Currently we don't know how much implementing the bill would cost us, and I think that's another problem," Mr. Ryan said.

These problems aside, Mr. Ryan is a strong supporter of the bill. "This will help people focus on the goals and the future of vocational education in our state," he said.

Concerned groups reacted positively to the bill because, they noted, their disagreements over its provisions had been ironed out through amendments.

Elizabeth L. Toth, legislative liaison for the Arizona School Boards Association, said that before the original bill was amended it "demanded a lot of things for which there was no funding," such as a new certification procedure for vocational-education teachers. It would also have created a separate state board for vocational education.

Currently, the state board of education "simply changes hats" to function as the vocational board, Ms. Toth said.

It would be impossible to estimate the additional costs associated with the original bill, she said. "You know there would have been new salaries and expenses and new support staff."

Ms. Toth's group is pleased that a provision in the earlier version of the bill requiring all districts to establish vocational-education programs was removed. "Right now, school districts are making substantial investments on their own," she said, estimating that districts spend $35-to-40 million annually on vocational-education programs.

Anne Lindeman, chairman of the state Senate's education committee, said there have been attempts to strengthen the state's vocational-education program in some way for the past three years.

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