Giving Compass' Take:

• Aspen Institute hosted an education policy panel earlier in April, discussing the value of rural schools and how policymakers can better support these entities. 

• Rural schools can serve as vital engagement hubs in rural communities. How can philanthropists work with policymakers to help better support these ecosystems?

• Here's an article about issues rural schools are having to retain teachers. 

Education policy needs an aperture as wide as America’s vast expanse, but national conversations often center on the needs of complex urban districts and rapidly diversifying suburbs, with rural schools treated as an afterthought. Federal agencies, think tanks, foundations, and large media outlets are primarily located in cities, limiting the context on which we draw.

It is not uncommon for a school principal to also be the basketball coach and the federal programs manager. Understanding this context puts a different gloss on the attractiveness of and even feasibility of competitive grants, not to mention the regular responsibilities of producing data for ESSA compliance. Policymakers should recognize the sparse infrastructure affecting many rural communities—little to no public transit, fewer libraries and arts organizations, and, ironically, fresh-food deserts—gives schools a central role in rural life that is different than in other locales.

Sixty million people live in rural communities in every part of America, serving approximately twenty percent of the overall public school population.

The idea of rural communities as deeply rooted in place arose several times during the panel. Residents know and take care of one another and feel more cohesion than is reported in suburbs or cities. Rural schools are critical to community infrastructures and a vital resource for strengthening bonds. They serve as hubs for activity and engagement.

Read the full article about rural schools at The Aspen Institute.