Galt high school district trustees approved funding a controversial state agriculture grant Tuesday, despite concerns the school's ag program drains money from other departments.
The state agricultural education incentive grant has become an annual struggle between critics claiming its requirements are too costly to the district and supporters seeking to maintain funding.
Tension between the two sides culminated Tuesday with board president Ann Ullrich rapping her gavel several times on the table to end an out-of-turn debate sparked by a district teacher opposing the funding.
At issue is how the district spends more than $128,000 to have six ag teachers work with students in the summer and have an extra class period during the school year to help students with projects - both stipulations of the state grant.
The $35,720 state grant funds textbooks and supplies, travel expenses for field trips and conferences and equipment for the school's 430-student ag program. But to get the state funding, the district commits more than $27,000 in matching funds.
Several parents spoke in support of Galt High's ag program and plead for continued funding through the grant.
Parent Mary Robertson thanked the school board for maintaining the program which she said gives students self-confidence and career goals.
"My child is very motivated and looking to the future," she said.
Math teacher Bob Rappleye, who has been a staunch opponent of the grant, argued the district needed to stop subsidizing the school's ag program and spend more money on other curriculum areas.
The ag department has stirred animosity among other educators on campus by having smaller class-sizes and project periods, Rappleye said.
Trustee Jim Aschwanden defended the school's ag program, saying it's unique in its needs, more so than any other program on campus.
Teachers often work after school outside of the school day and typical school year to work with students and their projects, he said.
Aschwanden said he refused to cut back an instructional program without reducing other budget areas such as extracurricular activities.
In the end, trustees Sue Roberts and Pat Maple voted against funding the grant, though they didn't dispute the quality of Galt High's ag program.
Roberts disagreed with capping the class-size lower than the school's core classes such as English, math and science.
Maple took issue with the inequities of the school's educational programs, but said his gripes would be defeated by the majority of the board.
"I've been around long enough to spit in the wind. It just comes back in your face," he said.
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