Agriculture

Agriculture teachers balk at what governor proposes to do with $15 million in budget

Atwater High School Future Farmers of America Department Chair, Dave Gossman, right, works with students to arrange and water plants inside a greenhouse at Atwater High School in Atwater, Calif., on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.
Atwater High School Future Farmers of America Department Chair, Dave Gossman, right, works with students to arrange and water plants inside a greenhouse at Atwater High School in Atwater, Calif., on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

High school agriculture teachers object to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed shift of $15 million for technical career training.

The plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 would put this money under workforce programs at community colleges, added to the $33 million they already were getting in recent years.

The shift would mean less money for in-service training of new high school teachers and for Future Farmers of America, which is closely tied to ag education. It also would reduce spending on “academies” at the secondary level for farming and other fields.

And the proposal would end a program that reviews whether ag classes can count toward admission to the University of California and California State University systems.

“It’s been huge for agriculture,” said Jim Aschwanden, executive director of the California Agricultural Teachers Association. “Over half of our courses are now recognized by UC and CSU.”

Dave Gossman, Atwater High’s agriculture teacher, said the new budget would eliminate funding for leadership courses for students.

“Ag is just one of many CTE sectors,” Gossman said. “Just as a CTE teacher, what the governor is doing through his actions is saying that CTE is not important for kids.”

That’s a flip in the governor’s position from just a few years ago, Gossman said.

The California Department of Education considers CTE a program of study that involves a sequence of courses taken over time that combines academic knowledge with occupational knowledge to provide students with a pathway to higher education and careers. In 2014, the state made available $250 million to help school districts set up career pathways, meant to form relationships with local businesses, create work-based programs and integrate academic learning.

“It’s confusing because, on one hand, the state is advocating for CTE,” Gossman said. “On the other hand, now it’s eliminating funding. So which is it? Do you support it, or do you not?”

The proposal was in Brown’s initial 2017-18 budget, released in January. It remained in the revision announced last week despite efforts by ag education advocates to reverse it.

Aschwanden said his Galt-based group is working with state lawmakers to prevent the shift.

The current structure “remains vitally important to the economic well-being of our state,” said a letter to lawmakers from GetREAL, a coalition of business, labor and education leaders. It stands for Relevance in Education and Learning.

Sun-Star reporter Brianna Calix contributed to this report.

John Holland: 209-578-2385

  Comments