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Colorado Offers More Support to Rural, Understaffed Schools

The Colorado Department of Higher Education is expanding five programs to help rural schools recruit and retain teachers and boost science, technology, engineering, and math programs, according to a recent story by Colorado's KUSA.

One of the state's programs will increase grant funding to provide more professional development for teachers in rural areas and boost STEM programs. Another program specifically provides support to low-income students who aim to start an education career, while a third program is attempting to increase the number of teachers certified to teach dual-enrollment classes. Nationwide, some research shows that dual-enrollment programs increase the likelihood that students will graduate from high school and attend college.

More than 70 percent of districts in Colorado are small and rural, and these schools serve a high percentage of English-language learners. More than 31 percent of the state's rural students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch based on low family income, and the state has one of the highest rates of mobility amongst its rural students, according to a report by the Rural School and Community Trust.

Like rural districts across the nation, many schools in Colorado have struggled to recruit and retain teachers, even turning to international candidates or local community members to fill vacant teaching positions.  

This year, education funding and rural schools are expected to be major topics in the Colorado legislative session, according to Chalkbeat Colorado. One legislator has announced plans to release rural districts from some state mandates, and a group of superintendents have proposed increasing funding for rural districts. 

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