Every year in Sacramento, a few issues emerge that strike such a chord with everyday Californians that it starts a title wave of opposition, and sparks an incredible amount of public comment in a very short amount of time. After Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget proposal earlier this month, I was reminded of one of those issues.
Remember back in 2014 when Brown proposed to cut the $4.1 million Agriculture Education Incentive Grant? That was a cut that would have devastated high school Future Farmers of America (FFA) programs and the over 80,000 students who benefit from agricultural education in California.
How did we respond? We gathered hundreds of FFA students from across California at the State Capitol to show Brown and state legislators how critical the FFA program is to the future of our students and California.
In his 2017-2018 state budget, Brown proposed to completely eliminate funding for career technical education (CTE) programs, such as FFA. These programs are funded by $15 million in CTE Pathway monies that are provided to the California Department of Education in order to support statewide CTE activities and programs.
The governor’s proposal instead allocated the $15 million to the Community College Chancellor’s Office to support existing workforce development programs. Now, this is not to say that the workforce development programs at community colleges are not valuable; they absolutely are.
However, these programs already receive $33 million in funding each year, making their proposed funding in 2017-2018 roughly $48 million.
Shifting the $15 million from CTE to workforce development programs means less money for training new high school teachers, reduced spending on leadership academies, and the proposal would end a program that reviews whether or not agriculture related classes can count toward admission requirements for a UC or CSU.
Currently over half of the courses offered through agriculture education are recognized by the UC and CSU systems.
It is not just FFA that would have suffered from the loss of this funding.
Organizations such as SkillsUSA, Future Business Leaders of America, FHA-HERO, Distributive Education Clubs of America and Health Occupations Students of America would all be adversely affected if the governor and Legislature did not realize what high school CTE programs mean to California’s future workforce and economy.
CTE programs are molding future leaders and teaching students real-world knowledge and skills that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives. If we do not invest in CTE programs and these students at an early age, who is to say that there will even be students interested in utilizing the workforce and development programs when they get to college.
Similar to 2014, the value of these programs was clear to see, as supporters from all across California banded together through social media campaigns and phone calls to urge their elected officials to ensure CTE programs continue to receive funding in not only the 2017-2018 budget, but for years to come.
Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, has reassured us that the $15 million will indeed remain for CTE funding. In an email, Ross stated, “Please be assured, Gov. Brown remains committed to ongoing funding for these programs… the governor is committed to ongoing funding for these programs for 2017-2018 and beyond.”
We fought and won in 2014, we have fought and seem to have won this time around, but nothing is set in stone. The commitment to fund CTE programs has been made, but I will believe it when I see it. Until then, we need to keep fighting and stay vigilant. It may not be long until we are in a position where we have to fight again.
Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, represents the 14th District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties.