Tim Hearden/Capital Press File
SACRAMENTO — After hearing an outcry from FFA advocates, Gov. Jerry Brown has reinserted funding in his budget proposal for high school agriculture education and career technical programs.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross reassured teachers that the $15.4 million for FFA and related programs zeroed out in Brown’s May 11 revised ledger has been put back in.
“Please be assured, Governor Brown remains committed to ongoing funding for these programs … through the California Department of Education,” Ross told educators in an email. “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 decision pleased Anna Canon, an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Orland High School. The school’s ag program has 218 students, or roughly one-third of the entire student body, she said.
“When this came up with the budget cuts, we were asked to bring kids to the Capitol,” Canon said. “That (funding) is how we are able to do what we do. Now the governor’s office is supporting ongoing funding.”
The proposed cut was part of a plan to boost spending for community colleges by $160 million to, among other goals, improve students’ employment opportunities.
Whether the FFA allocation will be moved back from the community college fund or found elsewhere is yet to be determined by Brown and legislators, said Jim Aschwanden, the California Agricultural Teachers Association’s executive director.
“We have to work those details out,” he said. “I haven’t seen the details yet, but the commitment is there to fund it.”
Brown’s reversal came after parents, students and other FFA advocates took to social media to rally support for the programs. Last week, 65 legislators sent a letter to the governor and to budget committee leaders asking that the funding be restored.
The $15.4 million represents the state’s total contribution to FFA and other programs, including one for future business leaders, a family and consumer sciences program and SkillsUSA, a career and technical student organization, Aschwanden said.
“What this money has enabled them to do is hold leadership conferences and bring state officers together to do leadership training for their chapters throughout the state,” he said.
Of the 114,000 California students that would have been affected by the cut, 86,000 are in FFA, which has a foundation to help raise money but relies on the $250,000 state allocation as “base funding,” he said.
“If there weren’t an FFA program, kids wouldn’t have the ability to develop leadership skills and a work ethic and (learn how to) manage money,” said Staci Alves, an agriculture teacher at Willows High School.
Budget negotiations at the Capitol have been ongoing since Brown presented his $124 billion revised ledger. The Democrat-controlled Legislature must approve a 2017-18 budget by June 15.