Some policies championed under the Obama administration have helped rural schools, but many programs and resources still elude the rural communities that need help the most, according to a recent story by The Hechinger Report.
The story highlights Dillon County in South Carolina, which President Barack Obama visited in 2007 when he first ran for president. The rural community has benefited from Obama’s attention. It received a $3 million development grant and a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With those funds, the district was able to improve decrepit athletic fields and build a new middle school.
According to the article, other rural districts have benefited from certain programs supported by Obama during his two terms. The Rural Education Achievement Program escaped funding cuts, and the E-rate program, which helps schools upgrade technology and internet connections, has grown.
At the same time, some policies and programs have been difficult for rural schools to participate in, such as those that require lengthy and time-consuming grant applications.
Noelle Ellerson, the associate executive director for policy and advocacy at the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, told The Hechinger Report the administration’s use of competitive-grant programs has been especially difficult for rural schools that need additional education funds. “That has negatively and disproportionately hit rural schools [that] were least positioned and had the least capacity to pursue competitive grants,” Ellerson said.
Among other ways rural schools have been affected by federal funds and policy decisions over the past few years are:
- Federal grants have been disbursed to support the teaching and studying of Native languages.
- Some tribal schools have gained more control over their education systems.
- Rural districts were frequently on edge over the funding status of the Secure Rural Schools Act, which provides timber revenue to districts close to federal forests. At times the funding was not immediately renewed, which meant districts had to plan for cuts.
- Rural turnaround schools have faced unique challenges, and few rural schools participating in the federal School Improvement Grant program have fully implemented the “transformation” model. Unlike other school improvement models, the transformation model does not require a turnover of staff members. The principal is replaced and extensive instructional reform and professional development occurs.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.