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Cunningham: Illinois continues to lead in agriculture education

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SPRINGFIELD—Illinois will begin planting the seeds for stronger agriculture education programs in its schools under legislation sponsored by Senator Bill Cunningham that was signed into law Tuesday.

Senate Bill 2975 creates a grant fund to help school districts defray 50 percent of the personnel costs for an agriculture education teacher. If a school district is creating a new agriculture education program, they could receive a grant to fund 100 percent of personnel costs in their first two years, and 80 percent in the third and fourth year.

“Today the state of Illinois said we prioritize one of our state’s strongest industries,” Cunningham said, who represents the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, which is located in the Mt. Greenwood section of his district. “We should continue investing into the successes of Illinois during these tough times.”

The legislation would also add agriculture education as an area of identified staff shortage which would make scholarship money available for those who want to go into agriculture education. Only 61 percent of agriculture jobs will be filled with qualified graduates in the coming years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Currently, there is a shortage of qualified agriculture professionals. That means there are job openings to be filled but no one there to fill them,” Cunningham said. “We should be emphasizing the great careers agriculture offers to all of our students.”

The legislation was signed into law on Tuesday during Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair.

Senator Cunningham represents portions of Worth, Orland and Palos Townships in the southwest suburbs and the neighborhoods of Mt. Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and Auburn-Gresham in Chicago.