Rural schools in Kansas are facing persistent teacher shortages, underfunding, and controversy over consolidation, according to a five-part series on rural education in the Topeka Capital-Journal.
The series spans several topics that are familiar to rural schools and also highlights some of the little-known issues that rural districts deal with, such as lack of housing options for teachers, the need for alternative education support, and logistical challenges involved with transportation.
More than 64 percent of the school districts in Kansas are small and rural, and 28 percent of the state’s students attend those districts, according to the Rural School and Community Trust. The state has one of the lowest average salaries for rural teachers. According to the article, about 25 percent of school districts in the state have part-time superintendents, and most of those districts are rural.
Here’s a brief overview of the topics covered and links to each article. The series is well worth a read.
Teacher Retention: Many remote schools in Kansas struggle to recruit and retain teachers, and they often have to rely on teachers from other states to fill open positions. In the Garden City Unified School District 457, for example, 14 jobs were still open when the school year started. Like rural schools across the country, Kansas’ districts have trouble finding teachers who want to live in rural areas, and the state’s average salary for rural teachers is the ninth lowest in the country. District officials say that the dearth of teachers means fewer course offerings, limited college-preparatory programs for students, and an overreliance on substitute teachers.
Consolidation: School consolidation is a controversial topic in Kansas and nationwide. Several Kansas districts have consolidated to provide sports to students, deal with population loss, or mitigate shrinking budgets and declining state aid.
Alternative Education: In the midst of budget shortages, rural schools across Kansas are fighting to keep alternative education programs. Those programs often serve at-risk students and are one of the only options for adults in rural communities who want to further their education.
Technical Education: In some rural Kansas communities, career and technical education is seen as a way to both encourage economic growth, prepare students for local careers, and attract businesses and jobs to more isolated areas.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.