By: Diane Benjamin
The most important thing right now is holding the County Board to only $30,000 in funding for Extension. There is something seriously wrong this organization, participants in 4H are far less than half of just 10 years ago, and Extension is sitting on huge reserves.
Local 4H groups are largely self funded, very little money comes from Extension to support their activities. Nobody is cutting 4H. Books and materials Extension used to provide to local groups now have to be bought by parents.
Below is a brief history showing how Extension has changed since their own tax levy was passed around 20 years ago. Obviously the organization isn’t the same now but transparency has been lacking at best. The Executive Director has fired volunteers who ask too many questions!
Before the restructuring 10+ years ago, the 4 main areas were Agriculture & Horticulture, 4-H & Youth Development, Family & Consumer, and Community Development. These were all run and funded at the county level. That included commercial and small farms. That is what was in place when the referendum was passed 20 years ago.
Current program areas are 4-H Youth Development, Commercial Agriculture, Community & Economic Development, Consumer Economics, Horticulture, Local Foods & Small Farms, Illinois Nutrition Education Programs, Nutrition & Wellness, and STEM in the Classroom. Most of those areas were also included before – just a reorganization of ideas.
But Commercial Agriculture is gone at the County level – that is funded and supported only at the State level. They also dropped Ag in the Classroom which they abandoned and was picked up by Farm Bureau. The only thing new on that list is STEM in the Classroom. And definitely a shift in funding away from 4-H and towards the Community Development areas.
One more point about STEM in the Classroom. That is a new name they came up with. But Robotics and Science in Extension has been around a very long time going back to the 1960’s for Robotics and Science (STEM) has always been a part of Extension from its inception – just by different names.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant, this group needs cases of it!
I’m looking for information on the Unity Center in Normal. Email me if you have some: [email protected]