California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed the complete elimination of funding for the Agricultural Education Incentive Grant program last week as part of the draft 2014-15 state budget.
The grant provides $4.13 million in matching funds for districts that commit to meeting state-approved standards in ag education, including classroom instruction, ag experience projects and leadership training through the Future Farmers of American (FFA).
“We are extremely disappointed that Gov. Brown has proposed eliminating Ag Education funding in California, the leading agricultural-producing state in the nation” said Jim Aschwanden, Executive Director of the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association. “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 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. We think this is a terrible mistake.”
The loss of the grant would remove the earmark specifically for ag education. The funds would still be distributed throughout the state education system, with local districts able to decide how the funding is used.
Currently the grant supports local ag education programs and FFA activities in more than 300 high schools with over 74,000 students enrolled in urban, rural and suburban schools. Students enrolled in these programs are representative of California’s social and ethnic diversity.
Turlock High School is one of those schools that receives funding from the Ag Incentive Grant. THS uses the funds to support student trips such as ag field days and competitions, as well as for materials and supplies to run ag educational activities.
THS Principal Marie Peterson is concerned about the potential loss of the grant.
“I know the ag community and our teachers are very concerned with the governor's decision to eliminate this important grant from his budget. With the new Local Control Funding Formula the state is moving away from earmarking funds for certain groups in favor of providing districts more local discretion in how to allocate funds. TUSD has always been highly supportive of our agriculture programs,” she said.