State Support For Aspiring Farmers On The Line

Mar 25, 2016

Gov. Bruce Rauner chats with FFA members before a press conference at the Illinois State Fair grounds.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

 Gov. Bruce Rauner says he supports one of Illinois' top industries: Agriculture. But critics say a recent plan goes against his own assertion that he's a “strong advocate” for it.

Even with Illinois' growing deficit and other fiscal woes, Rauner, a Republican, says wants to increase how much the state gives schools.

Yet he also plans to zero-out state funding specifically tied to agricultural education.

At a recent, unrelated event on the state fairgrounds, Rauner stood alongside visiting FFA students wearing their telltale blue corduroy jackets and defended that apparent dichotomy.

"I hope a lot of the schools in Illinois put more money into agriculture, not less. All I'm saying is let the schools, let the teachers and principals decide how they spend their money," he said. "We do not want to reduce funding for agriculture education in Illinois. What we're saying it's let's not have a lot of line items dictating terms of where money gets spent.

However, critics like Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill, say many districts will have to eliminate agricultural education without a direct funding stream.

“Agriculture education programs allow for our young students interested in careers in agriculture to be educated and prepared to enter that workforce," Manar said in a statement. “Those who rely on agriculture education funding deserve the guarantee that it will be there. We cannot expect them to be successful when their funding is under attack from the Rauner administration."

Manar also wants to re-do the entire funding formula so those poorer schools get more money. The governor favors using the current formula, despite concerns it's inequitable.