Calif. high school ag programs face state scrutiny
In a letter to the governor, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, President Jeffrey Armstrong said, "I am a product of (high school) agricultural education and the Future Farmers of America organization. It was a significant factor in my professional success."
Armstrong concluded his letter to Brown by saying, "Now is not the time to decrease commitment to secondary agricultural education in our public schools, especially given the past and current successes of the students in those programs."
The governor said when he signed the state budget he initially eliminated funding for the agriculture education grant program because he believes local education agencies are in the "best position to allocate their funding to meet local needs and priorities," but said he relented due to strong support for the program in the Legislature.
The California Farm Bureau Federation has called on its Farm Team members to send letters to the governor in support of the program and agricultural education.
"Those of us who have come through the agricultural education system understand how it has made California the agricultural leader it is today," CFBF President Paul Wenger said. "The programs are also expanding in suburban and urban areas, among students with no agricultural background but who are interested in leadership and personal-development training. Agriculture education programs truly reflect the diversity of today's California student population and they deserve continued support."
During the presentations to the evaluation team, the agricultural education program at Fullerton Union High School in Orange County was cited as an example of an urban school with a strong agricultural program. The Fullerton school includes a working 2.5-acre farm. The school's FFA chapter has nearly 400 members, about 20 percent of the entire student body.
Although state law requires that every student be educated according to his or her abilities, the emphasis in California high schools is on college preparatory classes, said Jim Aschwanden, executive director of the California Agricultural Teachers' Association.
"There's a lot of concern that technical preparation and industrial arts aren't being taught anymore," he said. "A lot of kids don't want an academic career, but there's very little room in the curriculum to teach anything else. These students are the future of agriculture in our state and the grant program offers them important opportunities."
Information on the CFBF Farm Team call for sending letters of support to the governor is available online at www.cfbf.com; follow the Farm Team link for background and a sample letter.
Editor's Note: Kate Campbell is an assistant editor of Ag Alert, the online newspaper for the California Farm Bureau Federation,
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