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Rural News Roundup: Bus Cuts, Turnaround Effort, Teacher Shortage

Here's a couple of rural education stories that you might be interested in reading.

Calif. Bus Cuts Hurting Rural Schools
We reported last month about the funding cuts to school transportation in California and how rural school leaders said their districts would be among the hardest hit.

An in-depth story by California Watch, a group of journalists dedicated to investigative reporting, does a nice job of describing how rural schools are dealing with this hardship. They report one district, Southern Humboldt Unified in Miranda, Calif., already has sent layoff notices to its 11 bus drivers, while another school is looking at tapping into a deferred maintenance fund it had been saving for five years.

"If we don't have transportation, we don't have school," said Tina Bennett, the superintendent of Forks of Salmon Elementary in tiny Forks of Salmon, Calif., according to the story. Bennett also serves as its principal, first-through-third-grade teacher and bus driver.

If you're interested in reading more coverage, check out a guest editorial by one small community's Chamber of Commerce executive director, or this story in The Record Searchlight in Redding, Calif., that details how rural schools in its coverage area are faring.

West Va. Turnaround Effort Receives Financial Boost, Flexibility
We told you in December about Reconnecting McDowell, a collaboration of private and public partners who are trying to turn around one of the country's worst rural schools, McDowell County in West Va.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced last week that Save the Children will receive $1 million to work with students and their families on early childhood and literacy programs, and the school district also will be a pilot project site where officials will have more flexibility from regulations to make needed improvements.

Other new developments include funding to install water lines to homes (housing shortages make teacher recruitment difficult) and a $100,000 for online learning projects. We'll keep you posted.

Rural Kansas Districts Brace For Baby Boomer Exodus
This final story in The Hutchinson News in Hutchinson, Kan., talks about officials expecting large numbers of teachers to retire soon, and how the remaining vacancies will be more attractive in metropolitan areas than rural ones. Why? Well, the pay difference, for starters. Urban teachers can make nearly $20,000 more than those in rural areas, according to the story. But that's not the only problem.

"It is difficult to attract teachers because of our rural setting—especially when we are competing for fewer people," said one superintendent in the article. "A beginning teacher, if they are going to come to this area, would rather go to Hutch or Wichita. In the near future we'll face the dilemma of how to recruit and get people into our district."

It would seem to reason that the same story could play out in rural communities nationwide. Stay tuned.

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