By: Hugh Mooney, Superior Region Supervisor
I began my first teaching job on July 1, 1984. I had a twenty percent summer contract (that is what we called extended contracts then). My annual salary was $25,012. I submitted an Agriculture Incentive Grant Contract in the amount of $8,300 which the district fully matched. At Big Valley High School, we had a seven-period day. The cost to the district to provide me with a Project Period was $3,475. The district was given the incentive of $2,000 in funding for providing me that period of release time. The same was true about the summer contract. In 1984, the Ag Incentive Grant provided an incentive to districts to meet program standards that the AIG was based on.
When we compare that level of incentive to today it is very different. In 2019, it would not be uncommon that a project period would cost a district $20,000 when you include salary, benefits and salary driven costs. Since we have less funding than is requested, we fund grants at a lower level. The incentive provided by the grant to a district that provides a project supervision period this year is $1,534. In many schools, the Ag Incentive Grant has become program maintenance rather than an incentive to cause program improvement.
Our current effort is to identify a more objective means to provide incentives to districts that develop quality agriculture education programs. Hundreds of teachers have offered ideas and shared concerns as we attempt to find a better method to allocate funding to improve programs. The ideas are varied and I share concerns with some of them that were offered. Some worry that if we identify benchmarks measured by AET that some programs will create records to meet the level of participation that may be less than an accurate measure of student SAE, CDE or LDE participation.
By the time you read this article we will have completed a State Staff Retreat. One purpose of the retreat is to identify a path forward. What objective measurements do we have access to? What incentives can be provided? Is it possible to have additional resources available? We do not expect to find all the answers during our retreat. We do hope to identify a path forward to involve the profession to develop true incentives for program improvement.
This will not be an easy process. The answer will be a challenge to find. If we make our decisions based on what will best serve our students we will identify what will be a true incentive grant.
For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/