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State officials tour Galt High School’s agriculture department to weigh funding

Proposed elimination of incentive grant would affect students statewide

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Posted: Saturday, October 19, 2013 12:00 am

Gov. Jerry Brown sent two members of the Department of Finance and the Legislative Analyst’s Office to Galt High School this week to evaluate the effectiveness of the Agriculture Incentive Grant.

In the upcoming budget, Brown may discontinue the grant, the sole source of funding for most high school agriculture programs. Without these specifically designated funds, most agriculture programs, including Galt High’s, could be devastated and the remaining ones would lack opportunities provided for students, teachers claim.

Wednesday’s showcase effort, including an ag facility tour, aimed to change that.

A number of community members, Galt alumni and current students spoke at the event in an attempt to help highlight returns made on the state’s fiscal investment, according to ag teacher Dane White.

“(Brown) is proposing to eliminate the incentive funds and instead place them in his Local Control Funding Formula, in effect wiping out funds specified for agriculture education,” he said of the state funding initiative in an email earlier this week. “As we know, anything that isn’t measured in testing, required by law or specifically funded will not be prioritized by districts — in effect destroying career preparation for agriculture in our country’s No. 1 agriculture state.”

The grant provides district money to improve the quality of their agricultural career and technical education programs. The goal is to maintain a high-quality, comprehensive agricultural career and technical program in California’s public school system, to ensure a constant source of employable, trained and skilled individuals, according to the state’s website.

Most recently, the grant was used to purchase computers for students in Galt.

The money was not allocated in the preliminary state budget proposed by the governor last year, but was put back into the budget during final budget negotiations and signed by the governor in the final budget, according to Bob Heuvel, who oversees grant applications for the state Department of Education.

In his signing message however, the governor indicated that he was not certain the funding should remain as a separate category.

He wrote, “(It) is my belief that local education agencies are in the best position to allocate their funding to meet local needs and priorities. Given the Legislature’s support of this program, I will direct my administration to examine whether this funding should continue as a separate categorical program into the future.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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