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U.S. Senators Reintroduce Plan to Create Office of Rural Ed. Policy

A bill introduced two years ago to create an office of rural education policy in the U.S. Department of Education has been reintroduced with bipartisan support.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., along with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, are co-sponsors of the bill that would aim to give rural students and teachers a stronger voice in the formation of policies affecting them. Baucus and Rockefeller backed the bill when it was proposed in May 2011, but it died in committee.

It's not uncommon for lawmakers to reintroduce legislation that hasn't moved forward, and this proposal likely faces long odds because there's no obvious legislative vehicle for it.

The office and its director would coordinate activities related to rural education and advise the U.S. Secretary of Education on issues important to rural schools. The department would be required to evaluate the impact of proposed rules and regulations on rural education and produce an annual report on the condition of rural education.

It also would collect and distribute information to help rural communities address their unique challenges. The office would not cost additional money; it would be staffed and paid for with existing resources in the department, according to the proposal.

"The goal of this bill is to allow rural schools to focus their time and resources on students in the classroom rather than red tape in the bureaucracy," Baucus said in a news release.

The Office of Rural Education Policy is modeled off of the Office of Rural Health Policy within the Department of Health and Human Services (Rockefeller helped create the latter in 1987).

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