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School Safety New Addition to Rural Ed. Coalition's Top Priorities for 2013

School safety has become one of the most discussed education issues nationwide, and it's the newest addition to the list of 2013 priorities for the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition.

The three other areas topping this year's recently released legislative agenda are: school funding, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and education technology.

The coalition's 2013 priorities are pared down from last year, when it had nine focus areas. The only new issue is school safety, which has risen in prominence since the tragic school shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December.

The coalition's mission is to represent rural children's education interests to Congress and the Executive Branch. It's a combined effort of the National Rural Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, and state rural education organizations.

School safety
Although all schools have the responsibility to maintain a safe environment for students, rural districts' geographic and economic challenges make that more difficult, according to the coalition. Congress should give money to rural school districts to ensure they have strong emergency management plans, mental health professionals as well as school resource officers, and security equipment, according to the coalition.

The coalition also encouraged Congress to consider funding existing federal programs, such as the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program and the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Program, before creating new ones. Finally, the coalition said it's a local decision as to who in schools should be armed during an emergency situation.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act
The coalition continued its support for the Formula Fairness campaign and reauthorizing the ESEA law. It requested this year that officials create an Office of Rural Education Policy within the U.S. Department of Education. Lawmakers have made that proposal in the past, but it's not yet happened.

The coalition also is pushing for changes to the federal Rural Education Achievement Program to ensure more rural districts can receive the funding they need.

School funding
There were no changes from last year in this area, and the coalition will maintain its previous positions, such as opposing any shift toward competitive funding as the way to fund the nation's schools, and encouraging any competitive funds to include a rural set-aside.

Education Technology and E-Rate
There were no changes from last year in this area, and the coalition will continue past stances, such as opposing expansion of E-rate eligible applicants beyond K-12 institutions.

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