How OAAE Used Advocacy to Secure Funding For Ag Ed Programs in Ohio
NAAE Communications/Marketing Intern
Last year, Ohio faced the possibility of losing its Point Five Seven Funding; money set aside in the state budget specifically for career and technical education. If funding was lost, the possibility existed that some CTE teachers, including agricultural educators, would lose their jobs. The Ohio Association of Agricultural Educators (OAAE) partnered with the Ohio FFA Association, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) and the Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education (OACTE), to advocate for career and technical education funding in their state. The result was a renewed realization of the power of sharing the story the impact agricultural education has on students.
While OAAE has historically encouraged its members to carry the ag ed story to legislators, this experience pushed the organization to increase its advocacy efforts. According to OAAE Executive Secretary Valerie Graham, OAAE’s partnership with OFBF allowed OAAE to tap into a valuable network of connections. Thanks to help from OFBF, OAAE officers and staff were able to meet with members of the Governor’s staff as well as representatives from the Ohio Department of Education to discuss the importance of continuing to fund agricultural education as a part of career and technical education. In addition, OAAE coordinated its advocacy efforts on behalf of ag ed with OACTE’s work for all of career and technical education. As a result of these groups’ hard work, the Point Five Seven Funding was secured for all CTE programming for an additional two years. Due to OAAE’s strong advocacy work and partnerships, they were also able to secure Fifth Quarter Funding specifically for agricultural education at its current level, which goes to support extended hours for ag teachers.
Even with the funding crises averted, OAAE realized a continuation of their new advocacy efforts were necessary. On the Friday of this year’s Ohio FFA State Convention, students and teachers were encouraged to visit the statehouse and meet with their legislators to share the ag ed story. Through these meetings legislators were able to get a real sense of impact that agricultural education has on youth and communities.
“We want to work with legislators all the time to get the story out, not just when we need help,” said Graham.
The next phase of OAAE’s ramped-up advocacy efforts is an advocacy program for ag teachers at the upcoming Ohio Chapter Officer Leadership Training (COLT) Conference. While FFA members are in their sessions, their teachers will be learning how to advocate more effectively for their programs.
The OAAE staff is also creating a legislative packet that teachers will receive during OAAE Fall District Meetings. This packet includes a variety of materials, including maps and locations of state legislative offices, sample letters, and pamphlets listing all legislators at the state and national levels. Teachers will also be directed to further legislative resources like those on the NAAE website, to make a connection with their legislators.
To ensure long-term success, OAAE also amended their constitution this summer to add a legislative officer to their list of officer positions. This individual will work with Graham to attend meetings and share information related to agricultural education advocacy within the state government.
“Sometimes it’s easier for a teacher to hear information from another teacher,” Graham said of the new position.
In today’s economic times, OAAE recognizes that fighting for a place in the state budget will continue to be a priority. By working with teachers, teaming up with other agricultural advocates like the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and putting educators at the forefront of legislators’ minds, they will continue to work for agricultural education and the students whose lives are influenced by it.
If you have questions about OAAE’s advocacy efforts, or would like more information, you can contact Valerie Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.