TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Pima JTED offers career and technical education to up to 22,000 students in almost every corner of Southern Arizona.
"We cover quite a wide area, but just because we cover that area doesn't mean those students can get to our premiere programs," said Pima JTED Grants and Data Specialist, Danette Davis.
The majority of Pima JTED's classes are located in Tucson. Offering reliable transportation for out-of-town students hasn't been easy.
"We have not had transportation funding ever for CTEDs (Career and Technology Education Districts) across the state. It's been a challenge from day one," said Davis.
The district could soon have a new option for students. With the help of state funding, A for Arizona is offering up to $2 Million to schools to provide new transportation opportunities. In Arizona, 71 districts across all 15 counties applied for the grant, and 74% of the districts that applied are based in rural communities.
"A lot of folks have not wanted to talk about transportation being such a big barrier for a long time. It's exciting to have so many leaders coming to the table, especially from Southern Arizona and our rural communities. They're showing that they can innovate too," said A for Arizona Founder and CEO, Emily Anne Gullickson.
Pima JTED is still in the application process with A for Arizona. Davis said the district wants to use the money to purchase electric vans, equipped with Wi-Fi, to transport students. The money would also allow their schools to hire more drivers.
"We would put in charging stations here and probably as far south as Nogales. We could take advantage of clean transportation and get our students back and forth," said Davis.
Davis said the funding could help bridge a gap that has been in place for far too long.
"We've obviously seen all the national titles about the bus driver shortage, but this is so much bigger than that. It's great to see so many communities, remote, rural, urban and suburban, that are coming to the table and leading the way on what is possible," said Gullickson.
A for Arizona plans to decide which school districts will receive the grant money on Friday, October 29. The chosen districts will be notified on Monday, November 8.