Community Blog: The EDge

FFA is seeks a big state funding boost for ag education

We know that Idaho FFA supporters are seeking another $2.24 million from the 2014 Legislature, to address rising enrollment and high teacher turnover.

We don’t know precisely how big an increase this represents. But it’s big — at least when compared to current state funding for agriculture education.

Idaho Education News asked for some context on the funding request from the state’s Division of Professional-Technical Education, which administers ag education in the secondary schools.

The short answer, administrator Todd Schwarz said, is that the context is “not clean.”

Ag programs receive most of their money from school districts’ general funds, he said. The rest comes from a $6 million pool of state money that supports a host of professional-technical programs, including ag education.

The cut for ag education comes to about $1.2 million a year, Schwarz said.

So if the state kicks an additional $2.24 million into ag programs, it would represent nearly a threefold increase in state support. But not a threefold overall funding increase, since local funding is a big part of the overall budget equation.

Overall, Schwarz said, PTE enrollment is on a “slow decline,” although ag programs are growing. But the entire professional-technical system could use additional money.

“The Ag Ed proposal brings to light attention that needs to be paid to all secondary PTE programs,” Schwarz said in an email. “The need is not unique to Ag Ed.”

Schwarz said he is working on a systemwide professional-technical funding reform plan that could be ready for the 2015-16 budget year. But the Future Farmers of America will push for its funding request in 2014. It will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond to this piece of the puzzle.

 

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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