Wednesday, April 09, 2014


by Kimberly Beltran  SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet


April 9, 2014 (Calif.)  ::   The Brown administration asserts that agriculture education and career technical training for high school students will receive greater focus – and continued funding – if state money for these programs is rolled into the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula.

But administrators, teachers and students of these programs from all over California testified on Tuesday that they fear the exact opposite is true. An Assembly budget panel agreed, formally rejecting Brown’s proposal to permanently “flex” these previously restricted dollars by including them in the LCFF, which gives local districts greater control over spending decisions.

“If the outcomes of career technical education are not required, specifically funded nor measured then the school districts are not incentivized to fund the programs, especially where all school districts throughout the state of California are still trying to recover to from seven years of devastating budget cuts and to restore those cuts,” said Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat from Torrance and chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education, lamenting the threat to specialized education programs posed by local control over spending.

Muratsuchi, whose district is home to the state’s oldest and largest career tech education facility, the Southern California Regional Occupational Center, has been leading a legislative charge to fund CTE, agricultural education and a few other specialized programs separate from the LCFF in order to protect them.

Brown’s 2013-14 budget, which implemented his LCFF and its associated Local Control Accountability Plan, consolidated two-thirds of all categorical – or specially funded – programs into one fund and reallocated the funding based on a district’s size and its student populations.

But 13 categorical programs continue to be funded outside the LCFF, including the $4.1 million Agricultural Education Incentive Grants and the $4.8 million Specialized Secondary Programs, created in 1984 in order to provide students with advanced instruction and training in specialized fields, such as technology, science and the performing arts.

Brown proposes to roll the funding for these two programs into the LCFF.

The $486 million in financing for the categorical program Career Technical Education – the majority of which is used to fund Regional Occupational Centers and Programs, or ROCPs – was flexed in 2008-09 due to budget cuts, and then included in the LCFF beginning with the 2015-16 budget.

This means that after the 2014-15 school year, local educational agencies are not required to offer CTE and can spend this ROCP funding on any purpose.

“We would note that, under the Local Control and Accountability Plan, districts must address as one of the – included within one of the – eight state priorities, career technical education,” the Department of Finance’s Chris Ferguson told the budget committee. “We view that as actually a higher level of responsibility to CTE than we’ve ever had before because now districts are being held to an accountability plan that addresses career technical education.”

Still, program administrators and supporters on Tuesday told the same story: Under prior flexibility due to budget cuts, ROCP and CTE budgets were significantly reduced, courses eliminated and students shut out. Those cuts have yet to be restored, they said.

Fred Jones of the California Business Education Association cited statistics he pulled from the California Department of Education’s data recording system, CalPADS, showing that in the 2012-13 school year, 1,228 high school CTE courses were eliminated, affecting 43,805 enrollees. Since categorical flexibility in 2007-08, he said, “we’ve lost” 215,000 high school enrollees in CTE courses.

“That’s because districts respond to what this building requires; what it forces districts to measure and what it’s willing to directly fund,” said Jones. “The only one of those three drivers that have preserved what we have left of CTE is the funding driver. And because of [categorical flexibility] and now LCFF we’ve lost that driver as well.”

Specialized Secondary Programs provide monies for two purposes: competitive grants for start-up costs and ongoing funding for two specialized high schools, while the Ag grants program provides ongoing funding to high schools with approved agricultural programs.

The purpose of the Ag program is to maintain a high-quality vocational program in California’s high schools to ensure a trained and skilled workforce within the agricultural sector.

An integral part of each school’s agricultural education program is the California Association of Future Farmers of America, established in 1928. There are approximately 70,523 FFA members in California within 305 high schools that are impacted by the state grant program. 

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