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Education Hot Topic in White House Officials' Rural Visits

Rural communities talked about education more than any other issue this past summer during White House officials' visits, according to a new report from the White House Rural Council.

Education took up the largest share of rural residents' concerns at 15 percent, followed closely by government programs and regulations at 14 percent, and infrastructure at 10 percent, the report said. A total of 13 major topics were discussed, such as the economy and workforce, access to capital/business incentives, renewable energy, healthcare, politics and trade. The numbers weren't tied to a scientific poll or survey, but rather were reported by administration officials moderating the discussions.

We reported on the council when it formed in June to promote economic prosperity and quality of life in rural areas. President Obama and members of his administration have made nearly 200 visits to rural communities in 46 states since then to hear how they could most effectively focus their efforts.

The new 20-page report doesn't give any specific recommendations. It includes an extensive list of every site visited, and it provides a brief breakdown of the issues discussed.

Discussions included the need to:
• Encourage vocational training.
• Improve rural education.
• Address the costs of higher education/ improve financial assistance.
• Focus on research.
• Reform No Child Left Behind.
• Deal with the "brain-drain," educated individuals moving out of rural communities.
• Focus on science & technology.
• Focus on education geared toward entrepreneurship.

In the report, Thomas Vilsack, secretary of agriculture and chair of the White House Rural Council, wrote that he looks forward "to working with the Council on addressing these issues and ensuring that rural America moves toward a prosperous and thriving future."

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