Rural Education Finance Center

Last Updated: June 16, 2009

The Rural Education Finance Center works on all levels to improve educational opportunity for rural children by reducing inequities in state school finance systems, strengthening the fiscal practices of rural schools, and insuring the adequacy of funding to rural schools. We do this by:

  • Leading the national effort to assure high quality education for every rural student in a good school, close to home.
  • Working with grassroots groups and school leaders in priority rural states to achieve equal educational opportunity.
  • Using research, communications, advocacy, and when necessary, litigation to improve school finance systems.

REFC Objectives

The REFC helps rural people meet these and other challenges by: 

  • Building Civic Capacity: The REFC helps rural people and organizations act as responsible and effective advocates for equitable funding for all public schools serving rural communities. It provides support for strategic planning, effective grassroots organizing and leadership development. 
  • Supporting Good Research: The REFC sponsors rigorous scholarly research on school finance issues that are critical to rural schools and communities, and shares the findings in plain language. 
  • Promoting Good Fiscal Management: The REFC identifies and promotes best fiscal management practices for rural schools, develops the skills among the appropriate personnel to use these practices, and advocates public policies that encourage their use. 
  • Providing Legal Support: The REFC provides accurate information and competent support to rural people on current legal issues involving school finance systems. The REFC does not enter into litigation or represent groups in court proceedings, but may provide "friend of the court" briefs. 
  • Monitoring and Reporting on Policy: The REFC tracks policy developments affecting rural school finance nationwide; provides a central clearinghouse for timely information on how developments affect rural schools and communities; and improves understanding of rural issues among the general public and the news media.

REFC Approach 

Focus on Rural. We understand rural places and people. To ensure rural public engagement, we realize that knowing the rural issues and shaping a rural agenda from within rural communities is a strategic necessity for fair and effective school funding systems.
Community Well-being. We put community first. For a fair and effective school finance system, we know that the issues that affect community confidence in public schools-tax system fairness, authority of the community in school matters, and efficient use of school funds-cannot, without impunity, be ignored.
Empowerment. We are committed to empowering rural people to be effective and responsible participants in the school funding democratic process. We aim to build organizations that sustain efforts and consistently renew leadership.
Strategically Appropriate Action. We focus on action strategies shaped to respond to the varying facts and circumstances rural people face. We do not let our organizational style and professional preferences determine strategies. Instead, we work with rural people to chart a course of action, and find the skills and resources to make it work.
Management Matters. We make the case for better management systems to go hand-in-hand with better funding systems. We believe that no amount of funding for a school is adequate if the funds are not used in the most cost-effective way-every dollar wasted is a source of fiscal inequity.
Equity in Place. We believe that schools must be community institutions, and that school funding system must reflect that idea. We believe that "equity" can only occur in a place where children feel safe, wanted, needed, and expected to do well. Good, small schools close to home are an essential part of a quality education.

Contact the Rural Education Finance Center.