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State will continue to fund FFA, other CTE programs
state CTE funding pic
Turlock High FFA members congratulate Robert Marchy (center) after he was elected a California FFA officer at the state convention in April. Governor Jerry Browns recent proposal to cut Career Technical Education funding would have limited students opportunities to attend events like the State FFA Convention. According to California Ag Secretary Karen Ross, the governor has since changed his mind and decided to keep funding the CTE programs. - photo by Photo Contributed

Governor Jerry Brown’s latest budget proposal that would cut funding to Career Technical Education programs at high schools throughout the state garnered cries of outrage from instructors and students involved in the affected programs. Those cries were heard by the governor. As a result, it was announced Friday that state funding for CTE programs like Future Farmers of America will remain.

In Brown’s proposed budget, released May 11, more than $15 million in state funding that had gone toward CTE programs was directed instead to community colleges.

In previous years, an annual amount of $48 million was to be divided between the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and the California Department of Education, with the CCCCO retaining $33 million and the CDE receiving the remaining $15 million each year.

Brown’s proposed 2017-18 budget put a stop to that split, however, and allocated the entire $48 million to the CCCCO, effectively defunding the CTE programs supported by the department of education.

The FFA and other agricultural education were two programs adversely affected by this shift in funds, with state dollars providing a majority of opportunities for students involved in ag-centered activities. The proposed halt in funding would have limited and potentially put a stop to travelling for leadership conferences and events like the State FFA Convention, and would also halt a curriculum growth that has taken years to establish, especially at Turlock and Pitman high schools.

According to PHS FFA Advisor Nicole Silveira, in addition to eliminating funding for travel, the budget cut would have also eliminated valuable funds for Partnership Academies, the University of California Curriculum Institute, which assists CTE programs in gaining college recognition, and Professional Development Funds, which currently support road shows, mentoring conferences and other professional development activities.

With all of these beneficial aspects of agriculture education at stake for Silveira and her students, the letter that she and other teachers received Friday was cause for celebration.

In a message addressed to “Ag and Ag Education Stakeholders,” California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross assured recipients that Governor Brown remains committed to ongoing funding for CTE programs. She stated that since the budget proposal’s release, she has heard from many who were concerned about the status of the $15 million normally allocated for CTE programs, specifically mentioning FFA.

“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,” wrote Ross. “I look forward to working with you to get this done and meeting many more of the wonderful students who are the beneficiaries of these programs.”

After the days of panic that followed the proposed budget release, Silveira and THS FFA Advisor Randee Vitorino were both able to find comfort in Ross’ message.

“I was relieved to receive the news because CTE is such an amazing program and opportunity for kids,” said Silveira. “I am a product of the FFA and other CTE courses like Food Science, and I wouldn’t be a teacher or the adult I am today without those courses.”

“I was extremely relieved that the funding was going to be there, because I was going to have to worry about what the next steps would be to save the funding for FFA,” said Vitorino. “We would have had to fundraise more money for students to attend events, or they may have had to provide more money out of their pocket to attend.”

Both advisors credited the agriculture community as a whole with getting the needed funding back on the table. Countless calls, emails, letters and social media posts alerted the governor to just how important these programs are to California residents, especially in the Central Valley.

“Agriculture plays a major role in California, and we all stick together when there is an issue,” said Vitorino.

Silveira pointed out that three years ago, Governor Brown attempted to cut funding as well, but to no avail thanks to the same response from those involved in the programs. And while the funding to California’s CTE programs has been restored, funds for a regional supervisor in the Superior Region, near Chico, will not be continued. The loss of funds for the position will not affect Turlock schools directly, said Silveira, but will cause a shift throughout the state, meaning the organization will need to be restructured as a whole.

“It is still a devastating loss to our organization because this decision leaves all of those school districts and programs, along with over 9,500 FFA members, without services of a regional supervisor and FFA Advisor,” she said. “We continue the fight.”