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Iowa School Leaders Work to Establish Rural Student-Advocacy Group

One Iowa school board president is spearheading an effort to establish a new student-advocacy group to educate state leaders on rural issues.

Coon Rapids-Bayard School Board President Joel Davis, who wants to create the Rural Student Advocates of Iowa, recently gathered representatives from more than 40 districts with less than 1,250 students to set the bylaws and structure for the new organization, according to a story in the Daily Times Herald in Carroll, Iowa.

"A lot of rural legislators simply don't understand education," Davis said in the story. "They're no different from everyone else. They get hundreds of things thrown at them. Nobody can do it all, and education is not their forte." 

This isn't the first time the state's small schools have rallied to support rural education. People United for Rural Education advocated for Iowa's rural schools from April 1977 until the early 1990s. School officials say that need to support small, rural schools hasn't changed.

Interest in the new rural group has grown during the past year, and nearly 100 school board members and rural district superintendents gathered in November 2013 to discuss their concerns. Officials felt as if many of their issues weren't being addressed by existing school advocacy groups, such as the Iowa Association of School Boards, according to the story.

They're hoping for new legislation to address such challenges as insufficient and inflexible funding.

"How do we go about having legislators approve legislation that recognizes the needs of small schools?" wrote Bob Olson, superintendent of Clarion/Goldfield/Dows counties on the Rural Student Advocates of Iowa website. "First, we need to educate those who don't understand education in the small school. ... Second, create alliances with other groups who wish to pass legislation that addresses needs for their group and small schools. Three that come immediately to mind are transportation, flexibility with the use of the management fund, and operational sharing."

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