Sacramento Scene: New Budget

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

The 2022-23 Proposed California State Budget

At the beginning of January, California Governor Gavin Newsom made public a $286.4 billion budget proposal for the 2022-23 year. The proposed budget is 9% larger than last year’s budget. If passed, this budget would be the largest in California’s history. It is estimated that there will be a $21 billion surplus of discretionary money in addition to the billions of additions for schools, pension programs, and the rainy day fund (Cal Matters, 2022).

The proposed budget is a starting point for the negotiations with the legislature until the close of the session in June.  

Below is a breakdown of what the proposed budget holds for agricultural education:

Proposition 98 (collectively referred to as K-14 schools) Funding 

The healthy projection of general funding has substantially increased Proposition 98 funding for K-12 schools and community colleges for the upcoming year. Total Prop 98 funding is set at $102 billion, an increase of $8.2 billion from last year. This funding would be the highest in California’s history (Department of Finance, 2022).

Prop 98 Rainy Day Fund 

There has been a three-year plan to contribute to the Prop 98 Rainy Day Fund to protect against future financial shortfalls. The project has been to put away $9.7 billion for future needs. The 2022-23 contribution to this fund will be $3.1 billion (Department of Finance, 2022).

Projected Declining Enrollment 

Even before the pandemic, the California student population has been in decline. As a result, the current budget amends the Local Control Funding Formula to avoid school districts encountering dramatic single-year funding declines. According to the amendment, school district Average Daily Attendance (ADA) will be calculated on the highest following calculation; current ADA, prior year ADA, or a three-year ADA average (Department of Finance, 2022).

K-12 School Facilities 

In 2016 California voters approved Proposition 51 which authorized $7 billion in bonds for K-12 school facility construction. The 2022-23 budget allocates the remaining $1.7 billion in funding to reach the $7 billion included in Prop 51. Because Prop 51 is sunsetting 2022-23, the proposed budget directs $1.3 billion in one-time funding for school construction in 2022-23 and $925 million in one-time school construction funding for 2023-24 (Department of Finance, 2022). 

Agricultural Career Technical Education (AIG) Incentive Grant Budget AdjustmentThe 2022-23 budget proposes an increase of $2 million in the ongoing Proposition 98 General Fund to support the Agricultural Career Technical Education Incentive Grant program (Department of Finance, 2022). If passed, this would be the first increase in funding to AIG in over 15 years.

Sacramento Scene: Recap

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

For many, the end of the year serves as a time for reflection. The last couple of years have been the most challenging in recent educational history. As our understanding and adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic increases, we move to a more traditional school environment and increasingly familiar educational experience. As we transition, time should be taken to reflect on the accomplishments of agricultural education during the pandemic. The membership of CATA has shown remarkable resilience and flexibility to continue to serve over 92,000 students in agricultural education in California. The accomplishments listed below are a tribute to the work of the membership despite those challenges of 2020 and 2021. Thanks to everyone that continued to contribute to this great profession. Let’s celebrate the positive things that have been accomplished despite the state of the world. This is not a comprehensive list of the achievements of our profession, merely highlights. 

California Agricultural Teachers’ Association 2020

  • Pushed back a proposed 50% reduction in Career Technical Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG), K-12 Strong WorkForce, and Ag Incentive Grant funding in the California State Budget.
  • Nearly $1 million in grant funds was awarded to the AgAlign Certification project to continue the student certification initiative started in the Central Region.
  • Implementation of virtual CDE contests facilitated by the CATA membership.
  • First virtual CATA Summer Conference provided at no cost to the CATA membership.
  • Language inserted into Perkins V clearly defines Career Technical Student Organizations replacing the vague leadership development language.

California Agricultural Teachers’ Association 2021 

  • $150 million in additional funding was added to CTEIG funding, with this addition bringing the total available secondary CTE funding to nearly $500 million annually.
  • CATA membership is at an all-time organization high.
  • Highest recorded attendance at the CATA Summer Conference.
  • The curricular redesign of the Delta Conference occurs, where the new Cal-Delta will debut in 2022, increasing access to this transformational professional development event.

CA FFA 2020

  • Two forgiven PPP Loans to CA FFA to offset $160,000 in salaries.
  • CA FFA was released from all State FFA Conference contracts.
  • 97% return or credit of all State FFA Conference down payments.
  • Implementation of virtual Greenhand, MFE, ALA, and SLE conferences.
  • The debut of the first-ever virtual State FFA Conference.
  • CA FFA member David Lopez elected to National FFA office.

CA FFA 2021

  • First-ever FFA Caucus was created in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • In-person Greenhand, MFE, ALA, and SLE conferences reconvened.
  • 29 CA FFA students represented California as finalists in the National Proficiency Awards program.
  • 22 CA FFA Agriscience research projects were recognized at the National Level.
  • California teams won the following National CDE contests: Ag Issues, Livestock Evaluation, Marketing Plan, Parliamentary Procedure, and Veterinary Science.
  • Sixty-seven teams and individuals represented California at the National Level in Career Development and Leadership Development Events.

During this holiday season, take some time to reflect on your personal perseverance and accomplishments during the pandemic. An inventory of individual and professional achievements can quantify the growth and success that you have experienced since the world changed in the Spring of 2020. 

Take time to rejuvenate and connect with family and friends during the break. A spring full of in-person events and face-to-face conferences is just around the corner.

Vaccine Mandate for California Students Announced

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

At the beginning of October, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a COVID vaccine mandate for California students 12 years of age and up.

The Governor’s office also stated that teachers and school staff would be held to the same vaccination standard and timeline under the new requirement. Currently, teachers and staff can provide proof of vaccination or submit a weekly COVID test (Gutierrez, 2021)

First, the mandate cannot go into effect until COVID vaccines are fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently, vaccines for students 12-15 only have emergency authorization by the FDA. Therefore, the mandate would not go into effect until the next term after approval. Terms are either January 1st or July 1st. Most experts predict that won’t happen until July 2022 (Gutierrez, 2021)

The mandate will apply to all students at public or private schools in California. A student not vaccinated may participate in independent study but may not participate in in-person instruction (Gov.Ca.Gov).

The mandate from the Governor includes exemptions for medical and personal beliefs. As stated on the ‘California Get Vaccinated’ page, “Requirements established by regulation, not legislation, must be subject to the exemption for both medical reasons and personal beliefs” pursuant to HSC section 120338. Therefore, simply stated because the mandate was established by regulation instead of legislation, it must allow for personal exemption (Gov.Ca.Gov)

Legislation passed by the Assembly and Senate and signed by the Governor could be more restrictive. The California legislature reconvenes on January 3, 2022, to start the next legislative cycle. Several lawmakers are considering legislation to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of school-required shots that qualify only for medical exemptions. 

Currently, students are required to have the following immunizations to attend school in California: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Varicella (Chickenpox), Mumps, Rubella, Hepatitis B, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type B, and Measles (CCHealth.org).  

Five California districts have approved a student vaccination mandate on their own. Those districts include: Culver City Unified, L.A. Unified, Oakland Unified, Piedmont Unified, and San Diego Unified (Gov.Ca.Gov). Several lawsuits have already been filed against districts in response to the mandates.   

Many details of the mandate have yet to be determined, and the landscape of education has constantly changed during the last two years due to the pandemic. The FDA and the California State Legislature have yet to weigh in on the topic of vaccinating California students. It will likely be the summer of 2022 before the specifics are worked out. 

Sacramento Scene: August 2021

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

California Legislature 

Even though the Legislature is on summer break, there are still many things happening politically in California. The Legislature will return from summer break on August 16 and begin the final push to move current bills by the September 10 deadline. Interestingly, the end of this year’s legislative session is four days before the recall election. Any bill successfully adopted by that deadline must be signed by October 10 by the governor. This timing could create a very unusual situation. There could potentially be a new governor during the 30-day signing period. Technically during a recall, the incumbent would not be out of office until the election is certified. Certification could take longer than usual due to the increased number of mail-in ballots anticipated.

Gubernatorial Recall Election

August 16 is also the day that ballot mailing begins to all registered voters in California. The official California Gubernatorial Recall Election is scheduled for September 14. The following link will supply information about recall voting Recall/quick-facts-2021

The September 14, 2021, California Gubernatorial Recall Election ballot will have two parts.

The first part will be a recall question listed on the ballot as: “Shall GAVIN NEWSOM be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?”

Following the recall question, all qualified replacement candidates for the office of Governor will be listed. A list of those qualified replacement candidates can be found at 2021-recall/certified-list. Voters will be asked to make a choice for a replacement in the case of a recall. If a majority of the votes on the recall question are “Yes,” Governor Newsom will be removed from office, and the replacement candidate receiving the highest number of votes will be declared elected for the remainder of the Governor’s term of office (ending January 2, 2023).

COVID-19 

Governor Newsom announced a state mask mandate for all students and teachers as in-person instruction resumes across the state. This requirement would require both staff and students to mask during all indoor activities for grades K-12. This announcement has been met with several legal challenges across the state. 

Both the California State University system and the University of California system have mandated that students and faculty be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall. However, details on enforcement and repercussions have yet to be finalized. 

Vaccination stats are something that is reported daily around Sacramento. For reference, currently, 63.6% of Californians are fully vaccinated, 9.8% are partially vaccinated, and 26.6% have had no vaccination. 

Conclusion 

It will be an interesting fall as new school policies roll out, students go back to in-person instruction, bills are brought to the legislative floor, and ballots for the second-ever California gubernatorial recall are cast. 

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

Sacramento Scene: June 2021

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

The California State Constitution requires that the Governor submit a balanced budget proposal by January 10. This budget is based on the projected economic status of the state for the upcoming year.  By May 14, the Governor must submit a revised budget based on more current economic indicators. This revised budget is sometimes dubbed the “May Revise.” The Governor and state lawmakers (Senate and Assembly members) will spend the next several weeks negotiating the final spending plan for 2021-2022. The legislature must pass a budget by midnight of June 15, and the Governor must sign it by June 30.

This year’s May Revise is in stark contrast to last year’s plan. In 2020, the Governor announced cuts in almost all aspects of the state budget, including education, and specifically slashing CTE by 50% across the board. The 2021-2022 budget was bolstered by an enormous $75.7-billion-dollar surplus strengthened by federal dollars. California has expanded tax revenues from the state’s highest earners in addition to federal stimulus funding this year. 

Governor Newsom is quick to say that the majority of this is one-time dollars. It was proposed that K-12 education receive $61.3 billion in January; that number was bumped to $66.1 billion in May. Along the same lines, higher education (Community Colleges, UC, and CSU) was slated for $18.6 billion in January, increasing to $21.7 billion in the May revise.

The budget projects per-pupil spending for Proposition 98 at almost $14,000 per student, which funds both community college and K-12 schools. Additionally, the federal government will send an additional $15 billion to K-12 and an additional $2.3 billion to the community college system.

Newsom’s most recent budget proposal includes $12 billion in stimulus checks of $600 to California residents earning under $75,000 a year.

Other noteworthy conversations happening within California State Law include taxpayers getting rebates in significant surplus years like 2021, although the full details of this rebate will not be finalized for several years. On the political side, the California Secretary of State, Dr. Shirley Weber, has confirmed that enough valid signatures have been gathered to put a governor recall on the ballot.

CATA Conference 2021

The final stages of planning for the 2021 CATA Conference are in full swing. CATA has teamed with Jesse Eller and Marcus Hollan from Studio 5 – Learning and Development, Inc this year to put on the themed conference aptly named, “Zooming into a New Decade,” where they are working to bring all the aspects of a traditional CATA Conference to a virtual space for 2021. 

The conference will be held from June 21-24th with three guest speakers Greg Schwem, Scott Stump, and Jeff Eben  sharing their messages with conference attendees. We will honor the achievements of our members, conduct the business of the organization, engage in professional development, network, and socialize. 

Over 900 participants have already registered for the conference. Online registration is available at http://calagteachers.org

NAAE Region I 

Region I Vice President Eric Tilleman has been recently hospitalized with a complication from COVID-19. In addition to Eric’s NAAE leadership role, he is the Montana State Agricultural Education Supervisor. Mr. Tilleman is a regular at NAAE events and has done much to promote and support Ag education in both the Western United States and nationally alike. 

Recent updates to Eric’s condition have been posted on the family’s GoFundMe page. This is shared not as a solicitation of donations, but as a way to share information for those concerned. Click here to be directed to the GoFundMe page.

June Reflections 

For many individuals in our profession, June signifies completing a cycle in education and sparks reflection on the year gone by. No matter how optimistic and positive a person may be, this academic year has been a challenge like no other. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche coined the phrase, “That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.” Perhaps that should be written in the yearbook of Zoom screenshots for the Class of 2021. It’s also a healthy way to reflect on the 2020-21 school year. Below are some of the good things we can all take with us from this year:

Value What We Have

We work in a tremendously fulfilling profession. We work with exceptional young people. We work with peers and co-workers that inspire us every day. This point became very clear at our local county fair. Despite the challenges of a new location and COVID-induced restrictions, it was the most positive and collectively supportive fair to date. Because of its absence, we were all reminded of the importance of community, togetherness, and a shared vision. 

Ag Teachers Need Each Other

There is a t-shirt in a drawer somewhere that reads, “You know an ag teacher across the state better than you know the English teacher across the hall.” We have a shared belief in the value of agricultural education for young people. We have shared experiences that no others in academia will ever understand. Coaching goat showmanship or teaching the correct usage of subsidiary motions are just a few examples. This comradery of shared experience was demonstrated at the in-person Superior Region meeting that occurred in May. People traveled from miles away to congregate and share stories. Hours after the end of the meeting, people were still visiting. CATA is a family, and we need each other.  

Struggle Leads to Growth

We have all had to adapt, change, and grow. This process was difficult and uncomfortable a lot of the time, but we are better for the experience. Tremendous creativity, resilience, and flexibility were used to bring the three-circle model to our students this year. Taking the advances and improvements forced upon us and mixing those with the tried-and-true traditions of the past will only improve our profession.  

Take some time this summer to recharge and reflect on the year. Reach out to the newbies in our profession and welcome them. Reach out to the retirees to thank them for their contributions to our profession and ask them for a nugget of wisdom. Above all, spend some time promoting your mental health. One thing is for certain, there will continue to be challenges next year. 

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

Sacramento Scene: May 2021

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

The legislative budget cycle now awaits the release of Governor Newsom’s May revise. This revision gives the governor’s office and the Department of Finance the opportunity to modify the proposed budget that was released in January. Current economic factors are taken into consideration during this revision period. There is little indication that dramatic changes are in order, but there are no sure things in politics.

Bills That Impact Ag and Career Technical Education

AB-839 (O’Donnell) This bill would add $150 million to the Career Technical Incentive Grant (CTEIG) Program. The Superintendent of Public Instruction has endorsed the bill, and Senator McGuire of the Senate Education Committee has agreed to put his name on the bill. The bill is currently in appropriations as the budget enters the May revise. CATA has taken a position of support on this bill.

AB-101 (Medina) AB-101 would add a graduation requirement of one semester of ethnic studies to all high schools in California. This bill has reached the governor’s desk the last two years but was vetoed. The governor stated both times that the curriculum needed revisions. Changes have been made and vetted by the California Board of Education. Many groups oppose the bill stating that several groups are marginalized or omitted from the curriculum.

SB-309 (Leyva) This bill changes the Education Code to financially incentivize schools to include A-G classes to provide college prep classes to high school students. CATA has taken a position of support, if amended. Senator Leyva has been approached to amend the bill by adding incentives to schools adding a CTE pathway to students.

CC AWET Positions – The California Chancellor’s Office is still proposing the reallocation of the funding used to support the state-wide director and regional directors of Agriculture Water and Environmental Technology. This reallocation would result in the termination of Nancy Gutierrez and regional directors unless regional consortiums fund the positions. Vice Chancellor Weber has met with industry leaders, community college agricultural deans, CATA, and Legislators but refuses to reverse course on this issue.

Updates

Certification Update

The work started with the CRAECPC (Central Region Agricultural Education Career Pathway Consortium) Grant will continue to move forward under the Agricultural Pathway Certification Program. An account of the funding of this K-12 Strong Work Force grant of nearly $1 million awarded earlier this academic year is outlined in the December 2020 Golden Slate. There are three primary deliverables for this K12 SWP funding stream:

  1. Offset the cost of the Tier 1 Online Certification Assessment hosting fees through June 2023
  2. Offset the cost of facilitating Tier 2 Practicum Certification events in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 academic years for Floriculture, Ag Welding, Power Mechanics, and Advanced Ag Mechanics
  3. Facilitate the development, field test, pilot, and standard setting for Tier 2 Practicum Certifications in Horticulture and Agriscience during the 2021-2022 academic year

Solidifying this grant ensures that the hard work started by the participating members of the CRAECPC Grant will be finalized and made sustainable well into the future. More importantly, the grant guarantees that students will be recognized for skill attainment in high school agriculture classes, validating their efforts. Strategic planning meetings with the grant leadership, Vivayic, and CATA have mapped out a strategy to finalize the project and to build a sustainable home for the program moving forward. 

The question has been asked why testing for Tier 1 certifications were not made available this spring. The answer remains the same as it was for last spring. Psychometric validation requires that the Tier 1 Online Certification Assessments be proctored in-person by an instructor. This core principle of all psychometrically validated assessments eliminated offering certifications independently to students in a fully online platform. Cost was also a significant factor in the decision to not offer the Tier 1 Online Certification assessments during the pandemic. The cost to provide access to the Tier 1 certification is approximately $54,000 for one year’s access – regardless if one student or 15,000 students access the assessment system. The vendor that facilitates that portion of the process has allowed pre-paid funds to be applied in the year following the pandemic. The third factor contributing to the elimination of Tier 1 Online Certification Assessments for the past two academic years was that reduced instructional time would adversely impact student success. Taking all of these factors into consideration, stakeholders begrudgingly agreed that certification testing was not financially responsible or pragmatic during pandemic impacted instruction.

This section of the article was written in conjunction with Dustin Sperling of Delta College who has been involved in formation of these certifications since the inception of the program.

CATA Conference

CATA’s virtual conference themed “Zooming into a New Decade” will be held June 21-24th. We will honor the achievements of our members, conduct the business of the organization, engage in professional development, and network and socialize.

Online registration is available at http://calagteachers.org in addition to a draft agenda for the conference.

Please sign up and join us for this important event celebrating the teachers of California agricultural education.

FFA Adult Board

It has been a dramatic three years for the FFA Adult Board, and that trend continues. California FFA has been involved in an ongoing dispute with Live-Light Entertainment since the 2018 State FFA Conference. Live-Light was the audio and visual vendor for the State FFA Conference for numerous years. Remaining with Live-Light became cost-prohibitive, and a new vendor was contracted for the 2019 conference. Live-Light contends that California FFA owes them money for “equipment” purchased to put on the State Conference the first year in Anaheim. Long story short, Live-Light filed a petition to compel arbitration in the Fresno Superior Court. After a hearing on the subject, the court failed to uphold the petition for arbitration, releasing California FFA from the proceeding. Since that time, Live-Light has indicated that they will pursue mediation or sue California FFA in Fresno Superior Court. At this point, no definitive action has been taken against California FFA. Information about the Live-Light dispute will be disseminated as it becomes available.

CalAgPlates

The distribution of the funds generated by the CalAgPlate program was negotiated between CA FFA and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDF) at the inception of the program. As per the agreement, CDFA retains 10% of the annual total of the CalAgPlate program for administration. The remaining money allocated 85% to Tier 1 and 25% to Tier 2. The Tier 1 funding is dedicated to the California FFA, and the Tier 2 money is open to non-profit agricultural education programs in California. The rationale for FFA receiving the majority of the funds is based on the fact that the majority of the 7,500 plates registered to start the program were the result of California agricultural teachers and FFA students. This agreement has been informal up to this point. Without formalization, this agreement could be changed with a new administration at CDFA. Recently CDFA released a letter of intent setting a mutual understanding of the funding and eligibility opportunities of the CalAgPlate program. This letter of intent puts into writing the program’s history and the distribution agreement forged between California FFA and CDFA.

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

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/

Sacramento Scene: March 2021

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

Mounting pressure to reopen schools is echoing throughout the halls of the California Capitol. Lawmakers and the Governor have been negotiating for over a week about the details in Prop 98 Budget Funding, Senate and Assembly Bill 86 concerning COVID-19 expenditures and guidelines for reopening schools. Last Thursday, an agreement was struck, ironing out those details.

Late last week, both the Senate and the Assembly passed a bill that will make $2 billion in incentives available for schools to offer in-person instruction by April 1, starting with elementary grades. This bill applies to schools that have not already made in-person instruction available for students (Jones & Freedberg, 2021). The legislation also includes $4.6 billion for all school districts regardless of whether they meet Governor Newsom’s “Safe Schools for All” timeline. The legislation prioritizes “prioritized groups” (i.e. students who are homeless, foster care youth, and English language learners). The $4.6 billion is intended to help schools open and address learning loss experienced during distance learning. Districts in the red tier (less than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people) are expected to return at some level by April 1. Funding will dissipate 1% a day until May 15 (Jones & Freedberg, 2021). 

The bill was the catalyst for heated debate on both the floor of the Senate and the Assembly. Perspectives on the issue fluctuated between the legislation not addressing appropriate safety levels, to the narrative that more students should be brought back on a more aggressive timeline. The bill passed the Assembly and the Senate by a combined 71-4. The four that voted no did so because they wanted a more aggressive timeline to get all students back into the classroom.  

Questions and Answers About Opening Schools after the passage of Senate and Assembly Bill 86 (Edsource Staff, 2021)

How many students are virtually learning in California? 

79% of students in California are enrolled in a school that is only offering virtual learning. 

When can California schools reopen? 

Grades 7-12 the county must be in the red tier (less than seven COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people) or lower to re-open. Elementary schools can open in purple tier (less than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people).

Do students have to attend in-person instruction?

No. Schools are required to offer distance learning for those that request it. 

What does Assembly and Senate Bill 86 do?

The bill incentives up to $2 billion for schools to offer in-person instruction for primary grades and “prioritized groups” by April 1. 

 Is it mandatory that students and staff be COVID tested before reopening schools? 

No, as long as they have posted a COVID-19 safety plan by March 31. Any student or staff exhibiting COVID symptoms will be sent home and be encouraged to get tested. 

Are districts required to come to an agreement with teachers’ unions before returning to school?

The short answer is no, but Senate and Assembly Bill 86 does not override the bargaining rights of employee unions. Those unions could demand safety and health protections above and beyond what the state requires.

Are teachers required to be vaccinated before schools re-open?

The new law does not require teachers to be vaccinated, but the state has included them in Phase 1b of the vaccination rollout. 

What can districts spend Senate and Assembly Bill 86 money on? 

Districts will have a lot of flexibility in how the money is spent, but 85% must be spent on services related to providing in-person services, including initiatives like summer school, extended learning, tutoring and staff training through 2022. 

How will the money be allocated? 

The money will be distributed in accordance with the Local Control Funding Formula. 

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.

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.

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.

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

Sacramento Scene: February 2021

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

With a surplus predicted in the overall California State Budget and in education, and Prop 98 funding in abundance, attention has turned to returning students to in-person instruction. The Federal Government, state and local unions, legislators, the Governor’s Office, vaccine distribution capabilities, state and local health regulations, and advocacy groups are all contributing to the conversation. 

Governor Newsom conducted a press conference from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California’s latest mass COVID-19 vaccination site. The Governor reported that he and lawmakers are close to finalizing a new plan to reopen elementary grades. Newsom hinted that if teacher vaccinations are a requirement, then opening this year will be a challenge. 

The one certain thing is that students returning to the classroom full time will be complicated and arduous. 

Below are items that CATA is tracking concerning agricultural education and our profession: 

AB 10 (Ting, Bauer-Kahan, Boerner Horvath, Lorena Gonzalez, McCarty, Muratsuchi, O’Donnell, and Petrie-Norris) Pupil instruction: in-person instruction: distance learning

This bill would specify that the requirement to provide in-person instruction applies when instruction is allowed under state and local public health orders. 

AB 299 (Villapudua) Career Technical Education: Apprenticeship Grant Program. 

This bill would establish the Apprenticeship Grant Program for the 2022-23 academic year under the Student Aid Commission to provide grants to community college students seeking careers in career technical education and vocational programs via an apprenticeship. 

Agriculture Incentive Grant – Budget Change Proposal

A Budget Change Proposal (BCP) was submitted for the Ag Incentive Grant in the 2021-22 California State Budget. The BCP requested $10.1 million in additional funds. The BCP was submitted to the California Department of Education (CTE) at the beginning of January. A notification was recently made that the BCP will not be forwarded to the Department of Finance. The rationale given was that no BCP’s would be considered that do not directly relate to COVID. This type of justification is a common theme echoing in Sacramento. The priority in education is to open schools and get students back to in-person instruction. This priority is trumping other agendas during the current legislative session. 

CATA Summer Conference 

Based on the online survey responses and the current COVID situation, CATA Governing Board voted to move forward with a virtual conference at the end of June. Planning is underway, and recommendations for professional development sessions are appreciated.

Registration is now open and can be submitted electronically at http://calagteachers.org. Once the registration is complete, the final page will contain a receipt number, print the last page containing the receipt number, submit it to districts and retain a copy. An email confirmation will follow. Registration without a purchase order can be achieved by marking pending payments and then forwarding a hardcopy of PO to the CATA office when available. Any changes or adjustments should be made via email or phone call to the CATA office. 

Reminder

Registration for continuing education units (CEUs) must be processed directly through Fresno Pacific on their website https://ce.fresno.edu/workshops/open-enrollment-workshops/cal-poly-slo-ag-ed

  • Summer Conference 1 CEU: – $90 (To receive credit, a regional meeting and two professional sessions must be attended.) 
  • Regional Meeting/Road Show 1 CEU: – $90 (To receive credit you must attend and sign in at both Fall and Spring Regional Meetings as well as the Road Show.)

CATA and Career Development Events for 2021

The CATA Governing Board met in November to discuss the upcoming CDE and LDE season. The below language was drafted and adopted as it relates to state finals competition. CATA continues to communicate with state staff and host sights to ensure that quality contests will occur this spring. 

The California Agricultural Teachers’ Association’s (CATA’s) Executive Committee and Governing Board have made the following recommendation concerning the CATA Curricular Code for the 2020-2021 school year. Due to restrictions on gatherings at both Universities and Community Colleges during the 2020-2021 school year, it may become necessary to conduct California FFA State finals in Career Development Events (CDEs) and Leadership Development Events (LDEs) in modified formats. Every effort will be made to follow the Curricular Code in hosting these contests. But in light of COVID restrictions, it may be necessary to modify or adapt the Curricular Code to accommodate revised formats. CATA recognizes that these modifications may be required to facilitate contests under current conditions. Changes will be reviewed and approved by both the State Finals CDE State Staff arbitrator and the State Champion CDE CATA approved contest advisor.

CATA needs you

As we move towards spring and summer, there will be many opportunities to help lead this organization at all levels. Consider your skills and how you can help you, fellow ag teachers, as we transition to the unknown. The current sectional, regional, and state CATA leaders have done a fantastic job during these complicated times. Please consider accepting a nomination to lead.

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

Sacramento Scene: January 2021

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

Governor Gavin Newsom released the 2021-22 State Budget last week. Indicators in California point to continued economic recovery, which was reflected in the budget. Proposition 98, which funds K-14 education, set a record at $89.2 billion. The California State University and the University of California systems received a proposed 3% increase from last year’s allocation (Fensterwarld, 2021). 

In a news conference, Newsom said his goal was to address the learning loss in disproportionately impacted student populations. He stated that distance learning had not met all students’ needs in an equal manner. 

The budget allocates $2 billion to facilitate the extra costs associated with in-person instruction. The best remedy to pandemic-related disruptions to student learning are best overcome by providing in-person instruction to students. These funds can be used for COVID-19 testing, PPP equipment, improving indoor ventilation systems, hiring teachers and classified staff and social and mental health support services. 

A portion of the budget surplus will be allocated to paying off deferrals from the 2019-20 budget, as well as adding to the Proposition 98 Rainy Day Fund (Governor’s Budget Summary, 2020). 

Highlights from the 2021-22 State Education Budget

  • $89.2 billion for total spending ($85.8 billion through Prop. 98 formula) K-12 and community colleges
  • $4.6 billion for summer school and extra learning time
  • $2 billion in one-time money to augment resources for schools offering in-person instruction
  • $500 million for teacher development programs.
  • $700 million in funding for programs that help students cope with anxiety, depression, stress and other disorders
  • An additional $300 million for special education
  • $44 million toward providing 4,500 more child care vouchers for low-income families
  • The CSU budget will increase to $144.5 million – a 3% increase
  • The UC system will increase to $136 million – a 3% increase
  • Post-secondary enrollment is projected to decline which will have a negative financial impact for 2021
  • Funding for K-12 CTE programs remains status quo.  

(Fensterwarld, 2021)

Proposition 98 Spending for the Last Decade

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