Rural Education in America Deserves MORE Attention

Education, more specifically access to education in rural parts of the United States has become a major issue in today’s society. It is a well-known fact that education is closely linked with economic outcomes and success later in life. Within rural communities across America, the gains in educational attainment have become unevenly divided across demographic groups. After the most recent presidential election, Donald Trump selected Betsy DeVos to be the new Secretary of Education. This has caused a lot of people to question whether or not she is the right person for the job because she does not have very much background in the education sector. Moreover, she has been a strong advocate in "letting parents use public funds to send their children to the traditional, charter or private school of their choice" (Marchitello, "Betsy DeVos has a rural problem: Column"). However, this plan fails to take into account the fact that rural schools across the country face significant educational and financial challenges.

This issue directly impacted my placement at Potsdam Middle School Mentoring Program because St. Lawrence County is considered just one of many rural counties in New York State. Furthermore, Potsdam Central School District can be classified underneath the rural jurisdiction. Within this sector, rural schools can be further broken down into three categories: fringe, distant and remote schools. Across the U.S. there are approximately 1,500 fringe, 3,100 distant and 2,400 remote public schools out of 13,500 public schools nationwide (nces.ed.gov). Moreover, Potsdam Central School District is classified as a remote school district in terms of its locale classification. Remote schools are defined as rural territory that is more than 25 miles from an urbanized area and is also more than 10 miles from an urban cluster. Additionally, rural schools are typically known for serving a greater proportion of students who are at or below the poverty line. According to Cornell University's New York State Center for Rural Schools, about 360,00 students make up New York's rural school districts. Of this, 7.5% of students are minorities and 28.7% of the rural students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch.

One of the most significant issues that exist within rural schools is that they often lack any or have very little access to advanced curricula. For example, rural schools continue to lag far behind other schools in terms of having basic 21st-century necessities. This includes access to the internet and the ability to provide students with advanced classes such as AP and IB classes, which many colleges highly encourage. Additionally, rural schools across the country struggle to recruit and retain high-quality teachers and administrators. This ultimately impacts students levels of educational attainment, which are a direct influencing factor on economic outcomes. According to a recent article about rural education by the United States Department of Agriculture, "Rural counties with the lowest levels of educational attainment face higher poverty, child poverty, unemployment, and population loss than other rural counties." Ultimately, this issue deserves more attention because rural education deserves to have more funding and additional resources so that they are able to be on par with other students across America.

Although this issue is not new, President Trump, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, people within the government and many others recognize that rural education is a large and significant issue that needs attention. However, just a few days ago, Trump and DeVos proposed a "$1.4 billion boost to voucher and charter school schemes that are unlikely to help vulnerable students in rural communities" (educationvotes.nea.org). If this voucher does actually happen, rural schools will feel the pinch even more. So what exactly can you do to help? For starters, you can get involved in helping rural schools advocate for funding. You can also advocate for equal treatment across all areas of schooling within America. All schools should have access to quality teachers, administrators, learning materials and technology. Even by simply donating money to rural school or spending time volunteering in any way possible, rural schools will be better because of it.

Works Cited:

  1. Ayers, Jeremy. "Make Rural Schools a Priority." Center for American Progress. N.p., 04 Aug. 2011. Web. 09 May 2017. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/reports/2011/08/04/10216/make-rural-schools-a-priority/

  2. Litvinov, Amanda. "Underfunded Rural Schools Will Languish Unless Congress Acts Soon." Education Votes. www. EdVotes.org, 05 May 2017. Web. 08 May 2017. http://educationvotes.nea.org/2017/05/05/underfunded-rural-schools-will-languish-unless-congress-acts-soon/

  3. Marchitello, Max. "Betsy DeVos Has a Rural Problem: Column." USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 03 Feb. 2017. Web. 08 May 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/02/02/devos-rural-america-school-reform-column/97362016/

  4. Marré, Alexander. "Rural Education At A Glance, 2017 Edition." USDA. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 6 Apr. 2017. Web. 5 May 2017. https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/83078/eib-171.pdf?v=42830