U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said on Tuesday his rural education agenda centers on four priorities: teachers, capacity, technology and college access.
Duncan's remarks in Arlington, Va., came during the second Summit on the Role of Education in Economic Development in Rural America, which was co-hosted by the White House Rural Council and the Education Commission of the States. Last year's summit resulted in a 15-page report outlining major areas for local, state and federal groups to target.
"As the rural community goes, so goes our nation," said Duncan, according to the Governing View blog.
The strengths of rural communities include hard work, commitment to community, and quick response to problems, and their top challenges include poverty, teacher recruitment and internet access, Duncan said.
He talked further about the administration's four rural education priority areas, saying the teaching profession needs to be elevated through higher salaries and incentives for those taking jobs in hard-to-staff areas, such as rural schools. He also said the administration's proposed $5 billion RESPECT competitive grant program would encourage states and school districts to transform their teacher training and retention policies, according to the blog.
For capacity, Duncan discussed the School Improvement Grant initiative, which awarded nearly a quarter of its grants to rural schools, and the Investing in Innovation program, which made rural schools one of five priority areas during the most recent round of grant awards.
Duncan said technology provides access and equity for rural schools, and that the Obama administration is funding the expansion of broadband. The Federal Communications Commission is on track to meet its goal of 98 percent of America having access within four years, he said.
Finally, rural areas lag the nation in post-secondary enrollment rates, and Duncan said the federal government is investing in student aid to ensure college is affordable. But that also is a responsibility of states and college presidents.
The day-long summit also included discussions among federal, state and local partners on effective economic development models that can be replicated in rural areas.