January 10, 2023
The Cooperative in Cooperative Extension, Part 3
In the past two Tuesday Letter entries, we investigated how our Cooperative Extension system is cooperative from national, state and local perspectives. Previously, we examined how the overall system in general -- and K-State Research and Extension specifically -- cooperates in terms of programming and funding.
In this Tuesday Letter, we will examine how we cooperate in system leadership. This is timely as we undergo our Extension Board membership transitions this month.
K-State Research and Extension is unique in its approach to system leadership. In most state systems, the state land-grant university provides leadership and administrative oversight to the local units. They often have local extension councils, as we do, but those local extension councils are advisory.
K-State Research and Extension is one of the few state systems that co-governs local units with a duly elected local extension board. In counties, the board is elected from within the membership of the four Program Development Committees.
The county Program Development Committee members are elected by the general public in a prescribed manner. In districts, the extension board members are voted on by the county’s registered voters in the official election in the fall. The elected board members then appoint the district’s Program Development Committees.
Why is there a difference between the way a county and district selects their boards and Program Development Committees?
The county system of providing local leadership was established first in the 1950s. When districting was legislatively approved as an option in the 1990s, a new system needed to be developed because our district extension boards are taxing entities. Thus, the district extension board members were required to be voted on in the official elections.
How we co-govern our local units is described by extension council law, district law, and a Memorandum of Understanding between our local units and K-State Research and Extension. All three can be found in our Handbook for County Extension Councils and Districting Governing Bodies, https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/PM1.pdf.
The overall duties of extension boards can be found on pages 9 - 10 of the handbook and are summarized as follows:
1. Conduct a yearly review of the district operational agreement and/or the Memorandum of Understanding between Kansas State University and the local unit.
2. Transact all business of the local unit.
3. Control all property of the local unit.
4. In cooperation with the director of K-State Research and Extension, select and appoint extension agents.
5. In cooperation with the director of K-State Research and Extension, determine extension agent compensation.
6. In cooperation with the director of K-State Research and Extension, supervise extension agents.
7. Approve, in cooperation with the director of K-State Research and Extension, all of the local unit’s accounts and expenditures.
8. Fill vacancies on the local unit’s extension boards and program development committees.
9. Take and sign an oath of public office.
10. Approve program plans prepared by program development committees.
11. Extension councils fix the date, time and place for each election in county commission districts or the county at large, and the annual meeting of the council.
The duties of the Director of K-State Research and Extension, and their representatives, in regards to local units are described on page 10 of the handbook and are summarized as follows:
1. Allocate funds toward the salary of each extension agent, only after local units have met all requirements of the extension council or district laws.
2. Certify that the local extension unit is properly functioning.
3. Cooperate in the preparation of an annual budget.
4. In cooperation with the local board, appoint, determine the amount of compensation, and supervise extension agents.
5. Determine the qualifications of local extension agents.
6. Approve all accounts and expenditures of funds by the local unit.
I encourage every K-State Research and Extension professional, extension board member, Program Development Committee member, and other volunteers to read and become familiar with the Handbook for County Extension Councils and Districting Governing Bodies. The extension council law, districting law, and our Memorandum of Understanding contained within the handbook explains in detail how we are to work cooperatively together to provide the public with our K-State Research and Extension programs.
As you read the handbook, I hope you see as I do that our system is not set up to be an us versus them system made up of 67 independent local units and Kansas State University. Underlying our extension laws and Memorandum of Understanding is that we are one K-State Research and Extension system.
As with all systems, we each have our own role(s) to play, but we do so cooperatively as a system focused on one goal: providing Kansans with the educational programs and resources they need to improve their lives, livelihoods and communities.