Illinois high school agriculture classes possibly on the chopping block

Despite saying he wanted to produce more career-ready students, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed completely eliminating funding for agriculture classes in high school. This has one local high school administrator concerned about the future of his students, and his community.

Even as high school sophomores, Grant Batteau and Grant Bigham know what they want to do after graduation.

"I’m going to farm after my grandpa gets done," said Batteau.

"I’m going to SIU-C and getting my ag economics degree, and then go work on the family farm," said Bigham.

For years, agriculture was one of the most popular programs at Pinckneyville High School. But Superintendent Keith Hagene says after seven years of cuts, today the agriculture room is completely empty.

"We were left no option other than curling back that program and closing it for a short time until we find out what the state is going to do," said Hagene.

Hagene says he was able to keep the program going online thanks to a grant. However, with Rauner’s proposed cuts to agriculture, the program is now on life support.

"It gives a lot of our kids in our population the opportunity to be exposed to careers that will earn them very good livings that aren’t college-bound jobs," said Hagene.

"It’s really frustrating, because our community around here is based off of farms in southern Illinois," said Batteau.

"It’s hard to fathom Pinckneyville High School, or other schools in our region, without those things in place," said Hagene.

Thanks to local donations, the program will stay afloat at Pinckneyville, but the same can’t be said for other schools.

Hagene says he hopes to one day completely bring back the agriculture program at Pinckneyville.

To hire a teacher and retool the department would cost $50,000 that simply is no longer in the budget.

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