Illinois 4-H and FFA exhibitors could soon be excused from school absence

Legislation in the Illinois General Assembly would allow students to participate in 4-H and FFA competitions and shows without being counted absent from school.

Pontiac FFA Advisor Jesse Faber chairs the Illinois Ag Education Legislative Committee. He tells Brownfield many schools start the academic year before the Illinois State Fair and DuQuoin State Fair, which has caused conflict for 4-H and FFA members.

“They have to make a choice to be unexcused on one of the first days of school to exhibit their FFA or 4-H project at the state fair. Our stance is that’s a choice they shouldn’t have to make.”

He says bill supporters recognize the educational value of exhibiting both livestock and general projects and schools should support students who earn the opportunity to exhibit at the state and national level.

“I am a strong supporter that there are few educational opportunities better for young people than the experience of taking care of and exhibiting livestock and the lessons learned at home in the barn.”

Faber says it is really no different than a student being excused to compete in a sporting event.

“That is exactly what we are asking for here, just the same recognition and treatment as if they were attending a music competition, a student council convention, or a track meet.”  

He says this is already common practice at some schools, but the legislation would make it a statewide standard.

Faber says the bill passed unanimously in the House and is expected to be picked up in the Senate once lawmakers return to session.  He says the bill has strong bipartisan support and he is very optimistic that it will pass. Senator Doris Turner and Representative Sonya Harper are the lead sponsors.

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