State funding for agriculture education has been dropped from the governor’s proposed budget, eliminating an estimated $4.1 million dollars that goes directly to agriculture-related programs for thousands of students in California.
Cutting the Agricultural Education Incentive Grant, designed to provide matching funds for districts that meet state-approved agriculture program standards, must be approved by the Legislature.
“If this happens, it will prove detrimental to many agriculture programs in the state of California,” Lodi High School agriculture teacher JessaLee Goehring said in an email.
The grant funds classroom instruction of 1,330 courses approved for admission recognition by both the University of California and California State University systems, along with supervised agricultural experience projects and leadership training.
In Galt, grant funding was most recently used for agriculture student computers.
Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal for the 2014-15 school year, made last week, the funds would no longer be designated for agriculture programs and districts could use them on anything they choose, according to local teachers.
“The elimination of support for high quality, rigorous program standards sends a clear message to schools that agriculture and these programs are not important for the future of our state economy,” Jim Aschwanden, executive director of the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, said in a written statement. “These programs are vital if we expect to attract bright, talented and innovative students to help meet the many challenges facing both agriculture and the state of California over the next several decades.”
The Elk Grove-based organization represents 700 instructors in agricultural education at the middle school through university levels in California.
In Oct. 2013, Brown sent two members of the Department of Finance and the Legislative Analyst’s Office to Galt High School to evaluate the effectiveness of the Agriculture Education Incentive Grant.
During the agriculture facility tour, a number of community members, Galt alumni and current students spoke in support of the program to help highlight returns made on the state’s fiscal investment.
The money was not allocated in the preliminary 2013-14 state budget proposed by Brown last January, either, but was returned to the budget during final budget negotiations and signed by the governor in the final budget.
In his signing message last summer, however, Brown indicated that he was not certain the funding should remain a separate category. He instead indicated that local education agencies are in the best position to allocate their funding to meet local needs and priorities.
This is part of the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula, where decisions related to spending will be led by students and parents.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.