Louisiana educators worry Jump Start program will hurt Ag educat

Louisiana educators worry Jump Start program will hurt Ag education

Agriculture education is important to farmers everywhere, but a special ag-career based high school curriculum in Louisiana has met some resistance.

At a high school in Zachary, Louisiana, agriculture teacher Kathy Conerly teaches her students how to plant potatoes.

While the just-planted potatoes grow, so does her concern for the department of education's new Jump Start program.

"I'm worried about the future of traditional agriculture in Louisiana," Conerly said.

The Jump Start program could allow students to leave traditional agriculture education to enroll in classes designed to prepare them for construction jobs.

Conerly knows from 30 years of teaching the money follows the students.

"Like we like to say, I think it's a wonderful plan, I think, but the devil is in the details. So it's going to be whether or not Superintendent [John] White can convince the legislature that everything needs to be funded," Conerly said.

She was one of more than 100 educators who heard White discuss the new Jump Start program.

"How can we equip more kids with the skills, academic and technical, to participate in the economy, get jobs to allow them to provide for their families?" said White.

The program is designed to get more students prepared for the workforce after high school, rather than prepare them for college.

"It proposes to do that by asking colleges, high schools, and industry to collaborate on the development of courses that produce those credentials," said White.

Louisiana Ag Teacher Association President Tommy Peters spoke up with concerns for students leaving the high school campus to learn at offsite trade schools, preventing them from participating in organizations like FFA.

"As long as they're on the high school campus and in our agriculture classes, then they can do both and that's our major concern," said Peters.

White said only 1 percent of high schoolers are currently enrolled in the state's career diploma. He said that was due to the negative stigma attached to the career diploma's name.

"If we do not equip our young men and women with the skills to take those jobs, those new jobs, not to mention just old jobs, someone else's sons and grandsons and daughters and granddaughters will be taking those jobs," said White.

White wants to be clear to parents and teachers the Jump Start program will not be a safety net for students who don't apply themselves.

"Our career choices and our career pathway need not be a path for our lowest achiever. It's a path for the full spectrum of achievers. It's for all kids," said White.

Conerly just hopes every one of her students is successful no matter which path they choose.

This report is from our partners at TWILA.

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