A wall in the agriculture education room of Shawnee High School. (Source: Jasmine Dell/KFVS)
ILLINOIS (KFVS) -
Governor Bruce Rauner "zeroed" the 2017 proposed budget for agriculture education funding.
Right now, the state of Illinois has a $1.8 million budget for agriculture education.
The Illinois State Board of Education has been recommending the funding to increase from $1.8 million to $3 million, now it appears the governor has proposed the opposite.
Mobile users can click here to see a PDF of the governor's budget proposal featuring agriculture education.
Agriculture teacher for Shawnee High School, Ann Ochs, said one in every four jobs in Illinois is agriculturally based and this cut is going to affect 29,000 people in the state.
"The agriculture education line item is usually funded at $1.8 million and we get about $2,000 of that money to spend on items that we need for the classroom," Ochs said.
According to the Illinois Leadership Council for Agriculture Education, 25 percent of all jobs in Illinois are directly or indirectly related to agriculture.
Ochs said she's lucky she has a supportive community, but other Illinois communities aren't as fortunate.
"We have a very supportive community and because of that supportive community I don't think they are going to let the agriculture item go by the waste side but there's a lot of other schools in Illinois that they depend on that funding for salaries and for extra expenses and equipment and stuff like that. That's the only money that they get, here at Shawnee I'm very fortunate."
President of FFA at Shawnee High School and Section 24 FFA Colby Kuberski said he's learned a lot of leadership skills being highly involved in the agriculture community in his area. He said the lack in funding could result in a decline in membership.
"We don't get as much funding as we need, we make due with what we have or we go by donations from local people. Well, a lot of local people they don't have the money to give and the ones that do, do their best. I mean our area gets the least funding possible. So, for our kids to not be in [FFA] because we aren't able to do the things that most chapters do is sad because with that money we could have more kids in FFA and then more experiences could be granted."
“In my personal experience I’ve had kids go on to be underwater welders, I have students who are in college right now for ag business, I’ve got two students going to school right now to be an ag educator… these kids are using what they’re learning,” Ochs said.
Ochs said some of her students will return to the farm, but the students that aren’t going into agriculture gain leadership skills, public speaking skills, and team work skills it’s not just agriculture.
“The self-esteem that kids have when they leave here is amazing, their more confident, they know how to go into a job interview,” Ochs said. “That’s a lot of things we don’t prepare kids for in the real world… it’s vital for their success.”
Ag legislative day has been going on for the past 10 to 15 years Ochs said. She took her students to the Illinois Capitol on March 1, 2016 to talk to representatives like Terri Bryant, Lisa Madigan, and others about the importance of agriculture education and why it’s needed in the classroom.
Gov. Rauner's secretary, Catherine Kelly, issued the following statement on Wednesday:
"Ag education is an extremely important aspect of curricula across Illinois. By fully funding GSA for the first time in seven years, districts will have even more flexibility to fund programs that principals, superintendents and school boards prioritize."