As local school officials start to begin the budget process for next year, they are looking at the possible loss of agricultural education funding. Funds for ag ed in the state’s public schools have been proposed for elimination in California Governor Jerry Brown’s recently released 2014-2015 tentative budget.
The Agricultural Education Incentive Grant provides about $4.1 million statewide to agriculture education programs that meet specific program criteria. The grant funding is based on factors including FFA membership and the number of ag teachers in the program.
Escalon, with a very active FFA Chapter and multiple ag classes, could be adversely impacted by the cut. The Times recently posed questions to EHS ag teacher and FFA advisor Jennifer Terpstra regarding the governor’s proposal.
Question: Escalon has such a rich history with FFA, how would the district be able to cope with the loss?
Answer: To clarify, the money that would have come to programs in the form of the Ag Incentive Grant will still be given to districts. However, the funding will be locally controlled, so it will be up to the districts to decide how much money is given to the program. We are very fortunate that our administration will continue to support our program and has assured us that the funding will be made available to us. As an ag teacher, I worry for other programs in our state who may not have such support. Looking at the bigger picture, we must remember that we not only educate students in agriculture, we develop leaders and voters who may influence policy and legislation later on as adults ... this, in turn, affects the agriculture industry as a whole.
Q: Do you know roughly how much the school gets annually through the funding program?
A: Based upon student and teacher numbers, our incentive grant varies from year to year, going as high as $20,000.
Q: Like many organizations, you do have a variety of fundraisers. If the state funding is pulled, do you think you could make up the difference or would some programs just be lost for the kids?
A: Without the Incentive Grant funds, trying to fundraise to make up the difference would be difficult. As it is, we fundraise for the FFA portion of the program. Without the grant monies, we would have to fundraise for shop materials, floral supplies, agriscience labs, etc. That’d be a nearly impossible task, especially in a small town where every other organization is trying to raise funds for their endeavors. Really, our greater concern would be garnering funds that would help us grow and update the program, not just maintain it.
Q: The scope of FFA has changed over the years, what do you think kids today get out of it and why has it been so successful at EHS?
A: FFA has something for everyone. In the past, the focus was on production agriculture, but as the industry has changed, so has FFA. FFA now includes opportunities in agribusiness, sales and marketing, floral design, and agriscience research. Students have the opportunity to participate in many more leadership development events and activities. At EHS, students are competitive, and FFA provides that outlet as well. Our students see the bigger picture, and they want to be a part of something that is greater than themselves. We draw students from all different backgrounds, serving both the traditional and non-traditional agriculture student. We make it a point to coach a variety of judging teams to meet the needs of all of those different students and their interests. From computer applications and Ag Welding to horticulture, livestock judging and agriscience research to record keeping, our students have much to choose from. Moreover, these young people are a reflection of a great school and community.
Q: Who makes up the ag staff and what are their areas of expertise?
A: Jennifer Terpstra, Agriscience; Stacy Ingalls, Ag Business & Floral Design; Rex Mendonza, Ag Mechanics; Dan Rovig, Ag Mechanics.
Q: Any other comments you would like to add?
A: It is essential to highlight the fact that the funds will be sent out to our district, and we have been assured that those funds will be given to our program. We are grateful that they have made it a priority to put our minds at ease, as I am sure there are other districts who will not be as fortunate as us.