Sacramento Scene: April 2021

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

The California Legislature went on spring break on March 25, reconvened on April 5, and now the legislative cycle will be in full swing until June. It will be interesting to see how the legislature and Governor manage a surplus budget amidst a pandemic and a potential recall. 

Legislative Actions of Interest

AB 839 (O’Donnell) – Passage of this bill would augment the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant by an additional $150 million for CTEIG. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond signed on as a sponsor of the bill. This bill is on the agenda to be heard by the Assembly Education Committee on April 7. CATA has submitted a letter of support and will testify backing the bill during the hearing. 

SB 309 (Leyva) – This bill would change the existing Education Code to be more specific about offering high school classes that meet college entrance requirements. The bill inserts the need to provide access to A-G subject matter requirements to high school students. The Education Code already requires schools to offer an opportunity to pupils to meet post-secondary admission requirements. This bill would specify A-G classes. A meeting is scheduled with Senator Leyva to discuss this bill on April 6. CATA will support this bill if it’s amended by adding the inclusion of a CTE Pathway at all California Schools. Adding equal access to CTE classes would give students authentic career path choices. 

K-12 Strong Work Force Grant Audit – Assembly Education Chair O’Donnell submitted a formal audit request to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee regarding the K-12 SWF Grant. If taken up, this audit would require an in-depth audit of the expenditures of the grant. Of particular interest to CATA would be the $12 million dollars annually awarded to the Chancellor’s Office for K-12 Industry Specialists. These positions are designed to support K-12 CTE programs across the state. 

Other Actions of Interest

Career Technical Education Regulatory Work 

California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) announced a proposed regulation that would include adding the Single Subject credentials in Art, Dance, Music, and Theater as credentials that could teach both general education and career-technical education courses. The addition of a CTE designation to performing arts teaching credentials is a slippery slope. CATA, the Get REAL Coalition, and numerous other CTE organizations came out against this proposal. Letters of opposition, e-mails, and phone calls to the CCTC resulted in a decision to reevaluate the proposal and not bring the initiative forward at this time.

Defunding the Statewide Director of Agriculture, Water, and Environmental Technology position 

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s (CCC) Office is considering the dissolution of the Statewide Director of Agriculture, Water, and Environmental Technology position along with the Regional Director role. This decision was announced by Sheneui Weber, the Vice Chancellor of Workforce and Economic Development. This position and leadership structure has been in existence for more than two decades. Currently, the State-Wide Agriculture Director is Nancy Gutierrez. 

CATA, Cal Fire, CCC Ag, Water, and Environmental Technology Advisory Committee, Industry Leaders, and Senators, and Assembly Members have all met with Vice Chancellor Weber regarding the position’s funding. At this point, Mrs. Weber does not seem willing to reconsider the reallocation of funds.

Update on the Live-Light Dispute

December 2020 – California FFA was served a Petition to Compel Arbitration by Coleman & Horowitt LLP on behalf of Live-Light, Inc. It was claimed that California FFA owed Live-Light Inc $3.8 million dollars in damages. Live-Light Entertainment was the company California FFA used to sound and light the State FFA Leadership Conference up until 2018. 

March 2021- It was announced in Fresno Superior Court that Live-Lights Petition to Compel Arbitration was denied. California FFA is not compelled to enter Arbitration with Live-Light. 

At this point, California FFA is not responsible for any of the alleged damages cited in the petition for Arbitration. Now we wait to see if Live-Light thinks they have a strong enough case to sue California FFA. If California FFA is served with legal papers at any point, the FFA Adult Board will be notified. 

How will the Pandemic Improve Us? 

Plato famously wrote: “Our need will be the real creator.”  Those writings later morphed into the cliché “necessity is the mother of invention.”

As schools slowly reopen, as students are allowed to assemble for athletics, FFA events, and graduations, we need to ask ourselves: what pandemic innovations should remain? 

People went to extraordinary measures, engaged in creative problem solving, re-imagined curriculum, re-thought FFA activities, and adapted SAE’s to new restrictions. 

The amount of creative energy and resourcefulness that was expended to continue to bring the three-circle model to students was immense. Which of those innovations, changes and adaptations should be continued as the pandemic subsides? 

In my opinion, returning to the status quo would be a lost opportunity to innovate based on the experiences of the last 14 months. I am in no way advocating for the abandonment of steadfast institutional traditions that make FFA. Rather, I am advocating implementing those innovations that enhanced those traditions. 

What is needed is a postmortem on the 2020-2021 academic year. Similar to a lesson debrief and writing down strategies that work and those that need refining, collectively as a profession, we need to reflect on the events that happened during the pandemic. 

This analysis should occur at all levels of our profession. There should be programmatic, sectional, regional, and state-level review and melding of new and old practices. 

Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/

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