Gov. Brown keeps Ag ed. intact

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comJuly 3, 2014 

The fiscal year began this week with funding left intact for school agricultural departments across the state.

Gov. Jerry Brown had proposed eliminating the Agricultural Career Technical Education Incentive Grant Program, which provides $4.1 million for schools with ag programs. The state budget, which went into effect Tuesday, did not include Brown’s proposal.

“That’s good news,” said Steve Tietjen, Los Banos Unified School District superintendent. Agriculture is an important driver of the economy in Los Banos.

Tietjen said the elimination of the program, which is categorical funding, would have meant a loss of about $56,000 for agricultural education in Los Banos.

“We would have had ag education. It’s a priority of the school board,” Tietjen said. “Does that mean that something would have had $56,000 taken away? Yes.”

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Brown, said the state Assembly and Senate decided to keep the ag funding in place.

“It’s just the end product of negotiating,” Palmer said.

He said under the governor’s proposal, the categorical funding would have remained through the 2014-15 fiscal year before being phased out and reintroduced as funding not set aside for a specific purpose. Brown’s plan would have also split the $4.1 million among more than 700 school districts instead of the 300-plus that now receive it.

Schools can use the money to cover half the cost of ag education expenses - such as equipment, field trips and FFA conferences - but not teacher pay.

The proposal is part of an effort by Brown to increase the pot of money in which local school districts have control. The system, which is part of the “local-control funding formula,” gives districts discretion over where to spend money instead of dollars being set aside for a specific purpose like ag education.

Tietjen said the governor’s scenario relies heavily on the desire of school boards. He said what a board views as important can change depending on the superintendent or who’s in office. Tietjen said he understands how districts would rather have categorical funding.

Palmer declined to say whether Brown will propose to get rid of agricultural department funding in next year’s budget.

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