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Engage with local schools, ask legislators to support education programs
Ohio State Agricultural Technical Institute and high school agricultural education are facing big changes. Farmers are passionate about these programs and will need to get engaged with local school districts and legislators to determine if proposed changes will be beneficial or detrimental to local programs.
Ohio State Agricultural Technical Institute
Changes to higher education funding in an early version of the state budget bill left Ohio State’s Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) facing a 30 percent funding cut. A cut of this magnitude could be devastating to the Ohio State branch campus, which is the nation’s No. 1 producer of two-year associate degree graduates in food and agriculture..
ATI students can graduate with an associate degree or can use those credits to transfer to another Ohio State campus and continue progress toward a four-year degree. Ninety-nine percent of ATI graduates continue in school pursuing a bachelor’s degree or are gainfully employed in agriculture within four months of graduation.
The graduates of ATI represent the future of Ohio agriculture and funding to support ATI’s hands-on learning environment and work force training is essential to maintaining the strength of the industry.
Recently, members of the Ohio House amended the budget bill to provide additional short-term support. Such a proposal, if adopted by the State Senate, would keep ATI funding steady for one year. Ohio Farm Bureau is advocating for this provision and will continue to work toward a long-term solution to support ATI funding needs.
“I was not accepted into main campus directly out of high school, but ATI provided a great hands-on experience to prepare me to transfer to Columbus and finish a four-year degree. ATI has a lot of those fundamental courses and hands-on learning that students gravitate to, making it a great place to adjust to college. Students who want a two-year degree can get that training at ATI from great teachers and then move directly into the work force.” ~ Sam Wildman, South Charleston; current Ohio State agricultural communication major
School and career tech funding
A new funding model for Ohio school districts is part of the budget proposal. Impact of the proposed funding model could vary greatly from district to district, but every district is guaranteed at least flat funding in the current proposed model. Legislators will leave their own mark on the model through amendments. It is important to analyze and discuss the impact of these changes with local school districts in order to give legislators constructive feedback on the proposals.
Under the education plan outlined in the budget proposal, funding for agricultural education is seeing some positive changes. There is a new model that places all career programs into funding tiers. High school agriculture and environmental education programs are among those in the top tier of the career tech funding model, receiving the highest allocation per student. Being placed in the highest tier demonstrates that Ohio policymakers understand the importance of having a skilled agricultural work force.
“The fact the governor’s budget proposal placed agricultural education in the highest category of the career technical education funding formula is a clear indication these programs are valued in training students for the jobs of the future.” ~ Brandon Kern, Ohio Farm Bureau director of state policy
The budget proposal recommends flat funding of the Agricultural 5th Quarter Project, which provides grants to school districts to fund teacher supervision of hands-on projects during the summer. Currently, this funding allows more than 5,000 students in 45 school districts to receive supervised instruction for their projects in agriculture, food and natural resources.
Get engaged with your local school district and career tech programs to determine if new funding models will impact them and take that information to your legislators. Let legislators know the importance of keeping agricultural education in the highest category of the career tech funding formula and keeping the Agricultural 5th Quarter Project to provide hands-on learning experiences.
We need to train farmers of the future to meet the challenge of feeding 9 billion people, protecting the environment and meeting consumer expectations. ATI and high school agricultural education programs will be critical in this training. ATI’s mission, in particular, is important to helping Ohio State accomplish its Land Grant mission. Take action now by talking to legislators and local school districts to be sure these programs have what is needed to get the job done.