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Rural Districts Have 'Extreme' Differences in Needs, Spending

Some rural school districts, although faced with similar challenges, differ greatly when it comes to needs and how budgets are spent, according to a recent story by the Grand Forks Herald.

The article compared spending on instruction, transportation and teachers for three districts in Minnesota and three districts in North Dakota. Among the six districts, transportation costs varied the most, with North Dakota spending an average of $8.89 on instruction for every dollar spent on transportation, and Minnesota districts spending an average of $10.65. 

An official from one North Dakota district said that his district spends only $5.80 on instruction for every dollar spent on transportation, due to costs associated with transporting high school students to a larger city 13 miles away, and providing transportation across ten towns for a summer program. That district also spends more of its budget on distance learning than some districts.

The six districts also vary in demographics, including the percentage of low-income students, which can impact funding. In North Dakota, nearly 37 percent of students attend rural schools, compared to about 24 percent in Minnesota, according to a report from the Rural School and Community Trust. North Dakota also has a slightly higher percentage of rural students eligible for Title I federal funding, which provides more money to schools. 

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