The Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology campus is in Coolidge.

COOLIDGE — A budget amendment that proposed to allocate a significant portion of career and technical education funding to pay teacher salaries and benefits submitted by a Pinal County school district left members of the Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology less than pleased at the May board meeting.

The second budget amendment for the 2019-20 school year proposed by the Maricopa Unified School District was one of several from districts around Pinal County that were brought before the board in light of significant changes CTE programs have faced due to COVID-19.

“We did approve several of these budgets last month, but because of school closures and not being able to realize the opportunity (for) certifications, career and technical student organization events and travel, or professional development and things like that, the schools are bringing back their budgets to be able to spend all of their allowance,” Superintendent Mike Glover explained during the telephonic board meeting on May 6.

But while the budget amendments proposed by the Coolidge Unified School District, Florence Unified School District and Casa Grande Union High School District were approved in unanimous votes, the board did not approve the amendment proposed by MUSD.

MUSD’s budget amendment, which was for an allocation of $477,320, asked to reallocate more than $250,000 to cover the costs of staff and salary benefits.

“I have to say I’m not in favor of this amendment because so much of the money is put into teacher salaries,” Chairwoman Linda Good said.

Good, who represents the Casa Grande area, was not alone in her opinion.

“When you live in a community you always want to approve what the district wants to,” said board member Alma Farrell. “But I feel this budget amendment is way too high in salary and benefit requests. The budget needs to reflect equipment, CTSO expenses, certification fees for students and professional development for teachers at a minimum.”

Farrell represents Maricopa on the CAVIT Governing Board.

“CAVIT monies are intended to enhance program quality and effectiveness for both teachers and students,” she continued. “I’m not in favor of moving all of these funds to pay teachers. That’s just not acceptable.”

Farrell also cited the precedent set by the board several years prior after a satellite school district requested CAVIT raise the salaries for CTE teachers as an additional reason why she felt the board could not approve the budget amendment. At the time, she noted, the request was denied because the proposed use of the funds did not align with the intended purpose of CAVIT funding.

“What we do we need to do for all our schools,” she said. “I’m not in favor of all these funds being put into salaries. It’s just not a good use of funding.”

Though the board discussed the potential need for making an exception due to COVID-19, Farrell noted that extra funding created in CTE budgets by the school closures and event cancellations should go toward ensuring that all CTE students have equal opportunity — a fact she stressed was made all the more important by the possibility of the Maricopa district adding an additional high school.

“They had enough money in the very beginning to pay for these teachers,” she said. “Why do they want to move (the funding) now?”

In response, MUSD spokeswoman Mishell Terry said the district was trying to reallocate funds from what has come out of the district's maintenance and operations (M&O) budget toward the CAVIT grant.

"Historically, CTE teacher salaries have been paid through M&O funding, leaving the generous CAVIT grant to fund supplies and other capital purchases," Terry said. "Recognizing that, compared to any other aspect of programming, a highly qualified teacher has the greatest impact on student success, the District proposed allocating grant funds toward hiring the best instructors, where it would most effectively influence student outcomes. The proposed revision would have allowed MUSD to leverage M&O funding across all programs and needs in the district."

Although a motion was made to approve the budget amendment, it died for lack of a second.