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Rural Schools Face Closure, Consolidation

Small, rural schools across the country are facing closure in the midst of shrinking enrollments and tight budgets, according a recent story by NBC News.

The story highlights a rural school in Maine, which closed this year after the local school board estimated they could save $188,000. Like Maine, schools in the Midwest, Southwest, and the South have turned to consolidation in recent decades either to save money or due to a common belief that "bigger is better," according to the story.

Nationwide, about 20 percent of students attend rural schools. Vermont, Maine, and Mississippi enroll the highest percentages of rural students, with more than 55 percent of children attending rural schools. Across the country, rural schools often face challenges including high transportation costs and difficulties recruiting and retaining teachers.  

Some research has found that consolidation and the resulting larger schools can offer more courses and professional development for teachers. In Vermont, where legislators recently considered consolidating the state's 273 districts into fewer than 60 districts, proponents said that consolidation could cut down on administrative costs.  

Opponents of consolidation have pointed to research that shows small schools often have higher graduation rates and equal or better test scores than larger schools. In the wake of consolidation, students in rural areas often face longer bus rides and teachers can struggle to form new relationships

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