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Rural News Roundup: Buses, E-Learning, Grants

Hope you're enjoying this festive time of year! The following are a few rural education stories I wanted to share with you this week.

Rural School Districts Suffering From Bus Transportation Cuts
California became the first state in the country earlier this month to cut all transportation funding for public schools, and rural district leaders say their students will be the ones hardest hit.

California Gov. Jerry Brown slashed bus transportation to help solve the state's budget crisis, and the change takes effect the second half of the school year.

As you can imagine, rural school leaders are devastated. Bus transportation is a critical, and costly expense, for rural districts where students live in far-out areas, and the cuts will disproportionately hurt those children (the reduction equals the amount districts would have received in state busing money), according to an article in The Sacramento Bee. Urban districts might have reserves or a backup transportation plan; many rural districts do not, according to an Associated Press story.

Eighteen percent of the state's students ride a bus to school, but that figure is as high as 90 percent in rural areas, according to The Sacramento Bee. The paper reports one school saying it would lose about one-fourth of its students if it stopped busing, while another said its children would have to spend at least 1 1/2 hours on the road if another bus were eliminated.

The state's largest school district has filed a lawsuit to block the cuts, and the Small School Districts Association plans to lobby lawmakers to restore transportation funding in January. We'll do our best to keep you posted on the fallout.

Virtual Learning Helps Rural Residents
Rural school districts nationally have been contacting a Maine adult and community education center to learn about a Virtual Learning Center launched a little more than a year ago, according to a story in The Bangor Daily News in Maine.

Those in Regional School Unit 3's family literacy program are spread across 11 rural towns and 440 square miles, so attending an adult education class in-person can mean a lengthy commute. The Virtual Learning Center has solved that problem for some.

The family literacy program has been the recipient of a $25,000 grant from the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and visitors to it include the former first lady's secretary and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The Maine Department of Education has more information on how this Virtual Learning Center works.

Grant Opportunities For Native American Education Programs Announced
The federal government is accepting grant applications from school districts that want to reform and improve school programs for Native American students. Application deadlines begin Jan. 9, and awards will be made in July.

Officials expect to distribute more than $100 million in grants, and they're looking to fund "comprehensive programs that address the language and cultural needs of Indian students, including professional development for teachers of Indian students, and that are designed to help Indian students meet the same state academic content and student academic achievement standards used for all students," according to a description of the grant.

There's a second grant opportunity relative to Native American students, and you can read more about it here.

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