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National Rural Ed Group Sets 2012 Priorities

Supporting a new formula for the distribution of federal Title I money and establishing a new federal Office of Rural Education are among the top priorities of the country's oldest rural education advocacy group, the National Rural Education Association.

The nonprofit's newly elected executive committee held its first conference call last week and agreed to adopt a slate of issues for 2012. The group plans to review its efforts and progress on those issues every time it meets.

None of the group's top concerns should come as a surprise to rural education advocates. They include:
• Maintaining support of the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, emphasizing the concepts of Formula Fairness. We've reported extensively on the Formula Fairness campaign, which is the effort to change the way federal Title I money is allocated to schools. Rural advocates say the current method results in more federal money going to low-income students who attend schools in larger, more-affluent districts than it does for similar students in smaller, poorer districts.

• Supporting the establishment of an Office of Rural Education within the U.S. Department of Education. Legislation to do that was introduced in May, but there's been little news of its progress since then.

• Communicating the need for timely and relevant rural education research. Rural advocates contend there's a dearth of research around rural schools' needs.

• Increase the membership and diversity of NREA. The group offers benefits to its individual members, such as access to its peer-reviewed publication, The Rural Educator, but only some states have affiliate associations.

• Increasing attendance at the 104th NREA Convention and Research symposium, which will be in October, in Cincinnati. Proposals already are being accepted for presentations, and more information is available online.

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