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Perilous Times for Ag Education Programs

Perilous Times for Ag Education Programs
New FFA Chapter springs up despite uncertainty.

With the legislature bent on major education reform, it's definitely time to stay alert and keep the phone number and email of your local representative and senator handy if you believe in ag education and FFA. The signals right now are a mixed bag, coming from Indianapolis and across the state.

One school reportedly closed the ag program which means the end to the FFA chapter when the instructor quit at the end of the first semester. Students were simply enrolled in other classes. In another situation, a teacher quit to take a non-teaching job, but the school board stepped up and hired a replacement teacher to complete the year and continue the program into the future.

At the state level, two people who worked in the Indiana Department of Education with some responsibility for FFA, Lisa Chaudion and Anna Ariens, exited to take different jobs related to FFA, but no longer with the state DOE. Chaudion replaces Brian Buchanan as Indiana FFA Foundation director, and reports directly to the Foundation Board. Buchanan resigned to join his family's trucking business in north-central Indiana.

Ariens was hired as the assistant backing up Steve Hickey, the director of the Indiana FFA Association hired by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture last August.

The most recent good news is that DOE, according to Chaudion, is filling the position with some oversight over ag education. The announcement for the job has been posted, with a relative short time for interested applicants to respond. That's seen as positive news.

Meanwhile, the education bill going through the sausage factory in Indianapolis may or may not affect what happens to Perkin's Funds, used to reimburse schools that offer secondary vocational training, including vocational agriculture. Presently, schools receive a set amount per class for each student enrolled on the official enrolment day in September of each year. Loss or reduction of those funds would make supporting ag educational classes precarious in schools strapped for cash, even though the program where it's operated correctly should stand on its own merits as worthy of support.

Despite all this, a new ag education program and FFA Chapter is well underway in its first year at Westville High School. Two state FFA officers and Hickey visited there recently. You can find Morgan Gadd's report on the chapter and its development in the March issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. Gadd, Fishers, is northern region vice president of Indiana FFA for 2010-2011.

The Westville program was started directly because the superintendent believes in FFA and the skills it offers students. First year students that Gadd talked to are excited about the possibilities that FFA and ag education bring to their school and community.

If you're an FFA supporter anywhere in Indiana, it's time to keep your eyes and ears open, and be ready to speak up to support the programs both locally and statewide.

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