Valley school looks to save agriculture program


Atwater High School now has the largest agriculture program in the nation, but most of the students do not have ag backgrounds. The students are learning everything from how to grow plants, to how to build shelves and picnic tables.

"It's the best program you can ever get because in the future agriculture is everywhere, and you have more career choices as in mechanics, construction, welding, cement work, everything," said Zuleyma Cortes, Atwater High junior.

The program is one of many across the state that receive funding through the Agricultural Education Incentive Grant. But Governor Brown wants to get rid of the $4 million allocation and instead give the money to local school districts to spend as they choose.

Administrators say it is a bad idea because the grant also requires matching funds and sets high standards for success. "This is an education model that is proven to be successful, and why the governor would want to eliminate that is very perplexing," said Dave Gossman, Atwater High School agriculture instructor.

The California Agricultural Teachers Association is now urging legislators to step in and save the grant. Supporters say the agriculture funding ensures students will continue getting valuable opportunities and it promotes a critical part of the state's economy.

"My concern as an educator is the smaller districts around the state where ag needs to be out in the forefront, and now it becomes an option," said Alan Peterson, Atwater High School Principal.

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