Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Senators ask education secretary to help rural schools, create Office of Rural Education

Twenty-two Democratic senators from mostly rural states have sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan imploring him to give rural schools a fair shot at the department's competitive funding programs. Senators from Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin signed the letter voicing concern "that some of the department's policy prescriptions (such as charter schools and even extended-day programs) just don't work in really remote areas that have trouble supporting even one school," Alyson Klein of Education Week reports.

The senators suggest the department provide technical support to help rural schools better compete for competitive grants, and call for the Department of Education to create a Office of Rural Education, "to help look at policies from the standpoint of rural districts," Klein writes. "Arne continues to seek the advice of rural school superintendents, principals, teachers, and students in order to create a balanced national education plan," John White, a spokesman for the department, told Klein. (There's been a federal Office of Rural Health for a long time.)

Duncan has met at least twice with rural superintendents, Klein reports, and came back from his visit to all 50 states with a better understanding of the challenges rural schools face. The department says its push to include more discretionary funding hasn't lead to a major decrease in formula funds, but it will look for ways to help rural schools in competitive funding. One example of the department reaching out to rural schools can be found in the proposed rules for the $650 million Investing in Innovation Grants that include a special priority for rural schools, Klein writes. (Read more)

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