By now, it should be fairly obvious that tough economic times are upon those living in the United States, maybe especially in the state of Oregon. With Governor Kulongoski’s mandated 9% across the board cuts to state agencies, many school districts have been faced with drastic budget cuts, and with those cuts, the precarious positioning of some Agriscience and Technology programs.
For many AST instructors, primarily those in rural areas with an agricultural economy, the fear of losing a program is minimal. However, with forecasts of state revenue reaching even greater shortfalls, that confidence can be a bit presumptuous, even in places with strong support for agricultural education. Therefore, it is necessary for agricultural educators to fortify their programs in order to protect and preserve perhaps the most valuable educational program there is.
With every academic program scrambling for every educational dollar, programs that are traditionally considered elective face a very real danger. Much talk of restructuring education in order to make the most of every dollar spent is a very real indicator that if agricultural education intends to survive, it must truly demonstrate and market what it truly has to offer students, both as an elective program and a program with core academic ties.
According to Educational Resource Strategies, educational dollars must get the most bang for their buck, and that requires an entirely new vision for funding education. “Reaching new visions will require fundamental restructuring of resources and difficult trade-offs,” ERS claimed in a recent educational restructuring presentation.
Fortunately, agricultural education and agricultural educators are able to meet that restructuring and participate, nearly unscathed, in those tradeoffs. For instance, in a push to restructure the actual occupation of teaching into a more high capacity job that integrates subjects across the curriculum, it is easy for agricultural educators to step up to the plate. How many AST instructors are certified in both Agriculture and Science? How many others can teach math, as well? How often do we integrate the Language Arts and Social Sciences into our classrooms? Teachers whose job may otherwise be in jeopardy right now, are kept because they can teach an Applied Plant and Animal Science class for science credit or an Agricultural Mathematics class for math credit. Perhaps they are teaching an Ag Communications course for English credit, as well.
Agricultural educators truly have a great deal to offer in restructuring education. Schools may get more bang for their buck by hiring one teacher who can truly teach across the curriculum. As a strategic use of school resources, hiring or keeping an AST instructor is perhaps one of the most financially sound investments a school district can make. It is important for AST instructors to inventory the diversity and quality of education they bring to the table and market that to their districts. It is important all of the time, but it is particularly important in economically trying times.