- Leaders of small schools in Vermont are hoping the state board of education won’t make drastic changes to a grant program designed to provide additional support to schools with small student enrollments, according to Vermont Public Radio.
- The state legislature directed the board to develop new criteria for distributing the grants, which can be as much as $100,000, and board members are considering issues such as test scores and how far students have to travel to get to their school.
- Some school leaders and community members say that without the additional funding, their schools might not be able to stay open, and that families, as a result, would have less reason to stay in or move to those towns.
Rural schools face a number of significant challenges, such as addressing increasing poverty and providing students with the same educational opportunities as those available to urban and suburban schools. Small, rural schools may also struggle even more to retain teachers and provide students with reliable internet access.
“Most federal and state education policies ignore rural America’s many natural advantages and force rural school districts to operate in ways similar to those in urban centers,” Dan Fishman, a former higher school teacher in rural New Mexico, wrote in a 2015 Education Next piece, which presented the argument that charter schools can help rural schools survive and innovate.
Rural schools in other states are facing the possibility of having to consolidate. In South Carolina, for example, state Superintendent Molly Spearman is pushing a plan that would require struggling small districts to merge with a neighboring school system — a position usually met with opposition from those who feel their schools and communities would lose a sense of identity.
Leaders of rural districts and schools have been increasingly turning to networks, coalitions and virtual communities as a way to share resources, apply for grants and provide their students with more opportunities while still maintaining their own unique features. Last year, the Rural School and Community Trust, which provides resources for rural schools, also formed a partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, to further advocate for the interests of rural schools.