White House Meeting on Rural Education Identifies Important Topics

Last Updated: July 18, 2009

This article appeared in the July 2009 Rural Policy Matters

Rural Trust Board member Francisco Guajardo was one of a number of representatives from more than 20 rural and education organizations that met to discuss rural education concerns with members of the Obama administration.
Guajardo says that participants seemed happy to be there and glad the administration seemed be seeking out their expertise.
The group identified 13 topics of concern and made recommendations in each area.
We summarize the topics here. You can read the full two-page document produced in the meeting here.
Create an Office of Rural Education within the U.S. Department of Education to make sure the needs of rural school districts are met when policy decisions are made at the Department.
Make major investments in rural education research to understand such topics as rural teacher recruitment, school financing, and demographic transformations, among others.
Create mechanisms to disseminate rural best practices and communicate successful programs.
FY 2010 Budget Request moves away from formula grants to competitive grants, which hurts rural and small districts that do not have the administrative capacity to apply and compete.
Title I Formula hurts small and rural districts because it targets dollars to large numbers rather than large percentages of low-income students, an inequity that should be corrected. Lack of Title I funding in rural schools also creates barriers to meeting family engagement and parental involvement provisions of federal law.
Recruitment and retention of qualified teachers is an ongoing challenge to rural districts and tribal communities and recruitment incentives and “grow your own” strategies should be explored.
The testing/AYP provision of NCLB encourages schools to teach for test preparation and should be reviewed for reauthorization of the law.
School facilities remains a problem in rural areas because of limited bonding authority that prevents rural districts from renovating or building facilities. A revolving education facility loan program should be explored.
Strengthen and support the government’s federal trust responsibility toward the education of Native American students.
Improve the access of rural school districts to other federal categorical programs by making it easier for rural districts to apply for and integrate various federal categorical programs based on local need.
Shore up non-profits that use both governmental and non-governmental funding so they can better serve rural areas.
Provide Administration support for rural schools including bringing rural educators into positions at the Department.
Oversample NAEP for rural, similar to the current urban oversample, so that more detailed analysis can be made of rural data.
Guajardo notes that he wishes there had been more emphasis on English Language Learners and on the stories that convey “the spirit and vitality of what is genuinely rural.”
Read the two-page paper produced as part of the meeting here and Francisco Guajardo’s description of the meeting in the blog Daily Yonder.

Read more from the July 2009 Rural Policy Matters.