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Rural Lawmakers Face Opposition in Push for Funding-Formula Changes

Rural lawmakers again are talking about changing the way the federal government funds rural schools, but they'll face a tough battle to make that happen.

A recent story in The Hill, a nonpartisan political newspaper in Washington, detailed two rural Democratic senators' efforts to rewrite the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the way it distributes federal Title I dollars. They also want to improve rural schools' chances of competitng for federal money.

The Hill story points out that the rural Democrats—Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas—will face opposition from those within their party who represent major cities and affluent suburbs. That includes party leaders, such as Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Charles Schumer of New York.

Still, Begich and Pryor are attracting attention for talking about the legislation and its funding issues. That has been a rallying point for rural advocates, who say the formula gives more money for low-income students to larger urban districts than to smaller rural ones. The Formula Fairness Campaign has been an initiative led by the Rural School and Community Trust to change that formula.

The Hill story said Democrats have focused more this year on gun control and immigration reform rather than changing Title I or reauthorizing ESEA, and that Republicans haven't made it a priority, either.

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