More than 1,000 Illinois FFA members flocked to the statehouse on March 1. The reason? Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has put agriculture education on the chopping block. His proposed cut – 100%.
That’s a grave mistake, according to Illinois Leadership Council for Agriculture Education (ILCAE) chair, Andrew Bowman.
“Investment in agriculture education ensures we are adequately supplying all businesses in Illinois with necessary talent and keeps good jobs here,” Bowman says. “No other educational model is as comprehensive as this. And, there are still far too many high school districts without agriculture programs, particularly in urban districts. There is no fat to cut from this line item.”
Illinois is amidst a budget crisis. The estimated amount needed in fiscal year 2016 needed to maintain services at 2015 levels is $38.2 billion - $6.2 billion short of expected 2016 revenues. Heavy cuts to human services and higher education have also recently come under fire.
Bowman’s counterargument – there has to be a better solution when it comes to cuts.
“We understand the difficult financial position of our state and are willing to work with the Governor and General Assembly on how we can strengthen private contributions to our partnership – but investing in our future is the responsibility of both the private and public sectors,” he says. “We look forward to working together so that all Illinois students through agriculture education may develop their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.”
State representative Sue Scherer says agriculture education is a window of opportunity for many Illinois students that would have dire effects if closed.
“They may come back to the family farm or they may go farm somewhere else, but the time to spark their interest is one they're youth and without that program, there will be no spark of interest," she told WRSP-TV.
According to Illinois FFA, only 321 of the state’s 800 school districts teach agriculture, despite the industry supplying up to 25% of the state’s job opportunities.