Monday, June 05, 2017

'Rural is hot' in news coverage since the election, but the same can't be said of rural education

Rural areas and issues affecting them have often been overlooked in mainstream media, but since Donald Trump was elected president with 61 percent of the rural vote, urban news outlets have paid more attention to rural issues such as agriculture, unemployment, drug abuse and poverty. This has "made rural America a trendy subject in mainstream media," but rural education still lags in attention, writes Ben Felder, education reporter for The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City.

Felder reports on the 70th annual Education Writers Association conference in Washington, D.C., last week, where he heard Alan Richard, chair of the Rural School and Community Trust, speak at a seminar titled "Education in Trump Country and the rest of Rural America." Richard said with a laugh, “Rural is hot; who knew?”

Still, rural school advocates are concerned that rural education remains overlooked. They also are concerned about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' lack of rural experience and Trump's education budget that pushes school choice, without addressing rural-urban disparities. "Richard also reported the large disparity in rural education funding across America," Felder writes. "For example, Alaska pays nearly $12,000 per rural students in public school funding, while Oklahoma is below $4,400, according to his analysis."

Fedler reports that "nearly 30 percent of Oklahoma public school students attend a school district with fewer than 1,500 students," and many people "fail to understand just how challenging it is in rural communities where the school is often the largest employer and the heart of the town." Funding cuts in rural communities "can often ripple well beyond the school."

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