If America Neglects Its Rural Schools, Nobody Wins

From Real Clear Education
Paul Hill

Moderate investments of time, money, and thought could unlock the potential of millions of students growing up, but it’s essentially going nowhere in rural areas.

Rural K-12 schools face unique challenges brought on by isolation, limited access to qualified faculty, declining economic bases, and community conflict over taxation and funding. Many face sudden changes in student population – declines in some places and rapid increases in others, the latter often due to influxes of children from former migrant worker families.

State and federal policies on school fundingand operation also pose challenges, as they often require bureaucratic capacities that small rural districts can’t and shouldn’t have. Categorical funding programs often force schools to spend money in ways that don’t fit rural needs. Rigid state teacher salary schedules make it difficult for rural schools to compete for talent.

Faced with these challenges, rural education leaders need to be nimble, imaginative and resourceful. Some display great imagination but others can be overwhelmed.

These are just a few of the conclusions from two years’ work by The Rural Opportunities Consortium Idaho, a task force of scholars and policy experts.  Sponsored by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation of Boise, ROCI studied the challenges faced by rural K-12 schools and the difficulties rural students face in entering and completing college. Rural students nationally are more likely to complete high school, but far less likely to enter college than demographically similar urban students; those rural students who entered enter college are also much less likely to finish.

In its first year, ROCI focused on K-12 schools; its second year emphasized the factors affecting college success. It ended with definite ideas and practical steps on how Idaho (and other states with large rural populations) can strengthen rural schools and how to improve rural kids’ access to college degrees.

Read more here.