Letters to the Editor

4-H program not in danger of ending

As you no doubt know, Washington State and the U.S. are facing an economic crisis unlike any that most of us have experienced. This crisis has affected, and will continue to affect, every aspect of our lives.

Washington State government is now struggling to write a budget for the next two years that will preserve as much of the funded programs as possible while collecting drastically reduced revenues.

Like it or not, budget cuts are on the way in virtually all programs. Higher education is expected to receive a 12 percent to 18 percent cut in funding. Washington State University, our state’s land grant university, is responsible not only for academics but also research and Extension as part of its mandate as a land grant university.

The president and provost have been testifying before budget committees and have indicated that they will be looking to fund their instructional programs and research as much as possible and that “public service programs” will most likely bear the lion’s share of cuts. Some of the discussion has mentioned a 49 percent to 75 percent cut directly from the funds that Extension, and therefore 4-H, needs to continue its work. Such a drastic and disproportionate reduction would dramatically affect the way 4-H is delivered to the youth of our state.

You may have heard that 4-H is being killed off by this action and that it will go away as soon as June. We have been briefed by the state director and she assures us that this is simply not so. Even though the new fiscal year starts in July, we fully expect the state legislature to be working on this long after that. In addition, 4-H is not only funded by state money, but also by Federal and local county money as well. Most of the county contracts extend to the end of the year and beyond.

Yes, we will face budget cuts, but we are hopeful that we can convince WSU management that Extension and 4-H should not be singled out for more than an even share of the cuts. Such a scenario has been in planning for some time.

So, what can you do to help us? First, we ask that no one panic over this. We have time to work on the problem and a panic and rash action could only hurt our cause. Rather, we ask that you sit down with your family and discuss what 4-H has meant to you. We all know that the kids have fun in 4-H, that they learn about their projects. But the true value and goal of 4-H is teaching lasting life skills that will carry past youth and into adulthood. Map those out for yourself and then, if you like, write a personal letter to your legislators and to WSU management. I have included links and addresses for your convenience at the end of this letter.

Make your letter personal and productive. Do not criticize. They are all working a problem that none expected and that none of them are responsible for. Instead, let them know what 4-H has meant in your life or in the lives of your young people. Ask them, as they continue their work, to please ensure that Extension and 4-H do not shoulder most of the burden. Let them know that you want to be kept informed of the process and results. If you can, offer your time to help in any way you can.

4-H has been here for 107 years and we are not about to go away. Together we can use this time to inspire and renew. I pledge that Pierce County 4-H will do its part to help the program and will keep you informed.

If you can help us, if you want to be a part of the solution, please let us know. You may e-mail me at chip@xwb.com

Chip Taylor

Pierce County 4-H Council

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