High school technical education programs such as Future Farmers of America have a future in California, after all.
Omitted from Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest budget proposal, FFA and other Career Technical Education programs were given a reprieve Friday. In an email to “Ag and Ag Education Stakeholders,” California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said those programs, on the chopping block since last week’s budget unveiling, will retain their $15.4 million allocation in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
“Please be assured, Governor Brown remains committed to ongoing funding for these programs funded through the California Department of Education,” Ross wrote. “While one-time funding was used to support these programs in the current year – the Governor is committed to ongoing funding for these programs for 2017-18 and beyond.”
The potential elimination of all state support for FFA caused widespread concern throughout the central San Joaquin Valley, the largest agricultural-producing region in California. High schools in Fresno, Madera, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties support 71 FFA chapters that involve nearly 22,000 students, according to regional consultant Charles Parker.
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In advance of Friday’s news, Assemblymen Devon Mathis, R-Tulare and Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, drafted two bipartisan letters in support of CTE and FFA programs and circulated them among the Legislature.
“It’s nice to know our efforts were noticed and that the governor is paying attention,” Mathis said. “It’s refreshing he actually listens.”
There’s a whole slew of things these students are learning in FFA that they won’t learn in any other program. That program is everything. It’s fundamental to the future of ag in this state.”
Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Tulare)
Most FFA chapters would’ve continued to operate without state support, Parker said. However, they would’ve been more limited and more expensive to participants. FFA chapters in Clovis and Chowchilla, for example, use state funds to pay for students’ visits to local industries, universities and to attend conferences and contests across the state.
In 2014, Brown made a proposal to eliminate the Agricultural Education Incentive Grant – another major FFA funding source – until being overwhelmed with disapproval from FFA members, parents, teachers and community members.
Brown’s budget proposal, released last week, would’ve taken all $48 million earmarked for high school students involved in CTE programs and reallocated every nickel to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. Now, that no longer appears to be the case.
“Those (community college) programs become more irrelevant if you don’t have those feeder systems,” said Ryan Jacobsen, executive director Fresno County Farm Bureau.