Monday, September 17, 2007

Character Matters, Keep Youth Educators Funded

As part of the ongoing Blagojevich Budget Fiasco, he would like to strike from the Illinois Department of Agriculture's budget Article 165, Section 25, an amount of $1,659,400, eliminating 29 4-H Youth Educators serving 47 counties through Illinois, working with 135,500 youth and 12,000+ volunteers every year.

Here in Peoria we are lucky to have Virginia Kuo, whom I've known only a short time but who is awesome. Twelve kinds of awesome, really. If this line item is cut, Virginia's job will disappear.

What do 4-H Youth Educators do? In addition to "traditional" 4-H-y things (four-aitch-ey?), it's one of the last bastions of character education in the state. Last year Virginia ran a character and leadership education program with 1200 students in 5 Peoria County schools, teaching 6 different life skills. The students showed marked improvements in skills like respect, fairness, responsibility, and citizenship. (Okay, seriously, when was the last time you saw citizenship taught? Are there any schools that even still have civics classes?)

This all sounds terribly dry when I try to explain it on the blog, but read Virginia's reports or talk to her in person and I promise you will get fired up about it. These are neat programs reaching a huge variety of children. 4-H Youth Educators do drug prevention, youth nutrition, food drives, obesity prevention, technology training, and, yes, 4-H fairs; they train teachers and other youth professionals in character education, bullying prevention, experiential education, emotional learning, etc. Students who participate in 4-H do better in school and are more willing to try new activities. 4-H Youth Educators work with students in the juvenile detention system. They work with farm kids. They work with inner-city kids. They develop lifelong habits of volunteerism in children.

More than 10,000 students in Peoria County alone were direct beneficiaries of 4-H programming in 2006.

These things matter. You need to call your state reps and senators and tell them that cutting this line item is not acceptable! You can look up your state legislators by your home address here if you don't know. (Frankly I think you should tell them the entire way Blagojevich is running the budget process is not acceptable, and that they should tie him down and MAKE him stay in Springfield, but that's another blog entry for another day. The total funding for all Youth Educators across the state is only 286 round-trip Blagojevich flights from Chicago to Springfield so he can avoid being contaminated by having to sleep south of I-80! For less than a year of travel costs enabling half-assed work by the Sound Bite Governor, your tax dollars can reach 135,500 students across the state!)

Please call. Please e-mail. Please pass this information on. It's important.

(Full disclosure: I sit on the Peoria County Extension Council. Why do I do that? Because I seriously think this stuff is important.)

1 comment:

Jimi said...

It does matter a great deal. Thanks for making a difference!