Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rural schools in Iowa form lobbying group

Concerned that state lawmakers aren't supporting rural schools as much as urban ones, rural school leaders in Iowa have formed a new group to give them a stronger voice in the statehouse, Jill Kasparie reports for KCRG News in Cedar Rapids. The Rural School Advocates of Iowa are "pushing for legislative support that strengthens rural education."

Springville School Board President Lee Ann Grimley told Kasparie, "Our purpose is to speak up for children in rural school districts, to make sure they get a fair, quality and equal education." Springville Community Schools Supt. Brian Ney said, "I'm hoping we can get a true understanding of legislators that just because we are small doesn't mean we are an inferior school—not at all. We want enough money to fund the school is what we want to do." One of the group's main concerns is transportation costs because buses have to travel longer distances than urban schools to pick-up and drop-off students. Other concerns are operational sharing costs and flexibility in funds districts operate, Kasparie reporyts. (Read more)

Funds are often determined by enrollment size, and leftover funds from one account sometimes can't be used in another account, Audrey Ingram reports for the Daily Times Herald in Carroll. Those concerns led representatives from more than 40 districts with school enrollments under 1,250 to meet earlier this month to establish the group. Coon Rapids-Bayard Schools Board President Joel Davis said, "By the end of 2014, 24 fewer school districts will exist in rural Iowa than were present in 2008. In that same time span, the percentage of students in poverty has increased from 33 to 42, but the funding to address the needs of those at-risk students has declined by 5 percent in rural schools."

Davis said the group "would take a 'tuning fork' approach—one tine will focus on helping local school boards network and build personal relationships with their legislative representatives, while the other tine funnels membership dues into hiring a professional lobbyist to reinforce the local message," Ingram writes. (Read more)

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