Reporter’s notebook

  • Pot tax yields Maricopa college district $17M
  • A study of California’s development education reform efforts

Pot tax yields Maricopa college district $17M

Community colleges in Arizona are getting a new stream of state funding thanks to a tax on recreational cannabis.

Passed in 2020, Proposition 207, which allows legal recreational cannabis use in Arizona, imposes a 16% excise tax that benefits public programs, which includes community colleges. The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) reported on Tuesday that it has received $17.1 million via the tax. Projections estimate that the district will see $16 million in annual distributions for the first few years with a gradual increase.

MCCCD says it has earmarked $7.6 million of the funds to directly benefit trade and technical training instructional divisions known as skills centers.

“The cannabis industry is not like any business at all, it has really flipped many business models on their heads,” said Bobra Crocke, who teaches the cannabis education program at Scottsdale Community College, which is part of MCCCD. “There’s a lot of interest in the cannabis industry, but not a lot of knowledge, and that has played a large role in helping us design our curriculum to reach both people who know something about cannabis and people who know nothing at all about the industry.”

After reimbursing state agencies for certain costs related to the excise tax, community colleges receive 33% of the distribution, with about 31% going toward municipal police and fire districts, and 25% for a highway user fund.

At the community college level, distributions are to be spent for the purposes of investing in and providing workforce development programs, job training, career and technical education, and science, technology, engineering and math programs.

A study of California’s development education reform efforts

Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based education research nonprofit, will use a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Education Department to research the implementation, impact and cost-effectiveness of recent state-directed developmental education reforms at community colleges in California.

In response to Assembly Bill 705, California’s community colleges are adopting placement policies that focus on high school transcript data in order to place more students out of developmental education and into college-level courses, said RFA’s Kri Burkander, the principal investigator on the five-year study.

“This study provides a critical opportunity to understand the impact of these placement reforms on student outcomes, identify institutional factors that have supported or thwarted implementation, and detect which co-curricular supports are most effective for which subpopulations of students,” Burkander said in a release.

The research will help better understand the effect of the state legislation and its implementation, as well as inform a national conversation on the best ways to place students and support their access to and success in transfer-level coursework, said Valerie Lundy-Wagner, interim vice chancellor of digital innovation and infrastructure for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.