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Recommendations From National Rural Summit Released

A few months ago, we told you about the National Summit on the Role of Education in Economic Development in Rural America. The May event was hosted by the Education Commission of the States in collaboration with the U. S. Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture.

Organizers promised to release recommendations from the meeting, and we promised to pass them on, so here they are. The 15-page report addresses four major areas for local, state and federal groups to target: rural infrastructure, flexibility in implementing rural improvement strategies, lack of job opportunities in rural America, and general improvement.

Almost all of the recommendations have an education component, but many weren't new ideas (i.e. expanding broadband capacity in rural areas and forming more partnerships). And after reading the report, I was struck by its lack of "how"—how are rural communities supposed to make these recommendations a reality? In many cases, there was no explanation.

For example, the report talked about the need to expand entrepreneurial activities that could lead to job creation. This could be done by teaching entrepreneurial skills to students and offering "grow your own business" programs, according to the report. But there wasn't any additional information on how that could be accomplished.

Some of the other recommendations: explore "integrating the needs of business with education course offerings" through e-learning; merge state and local data systems to reduce duplication; and promote the use of mobile technology in education. A few of its policy recommendations were more specific, such as urging the federal government to "make Title I funding more equitable for rural districts by moving from a number-based weighting system to a percent system."

I checked in with Kathy Christie, chief of staff for the Education Commission of the States, on what would become of these recommendations, and she said the commission is looking at hosting a second meeting to expand on the recommendations and on the country's rural success stories. She expects the Education and Agriculture Departments to again be partners in that effort.

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