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Rural School Service-Sharing Bill Advances in Colorado

A bill that would provide funding to allow rural districts to ease financial burdens by sharing services has passed Colorado's House education committee, according to a recent story by Chalkbeat Colorado.

The bill would provide $10 million for a program that would award three-year grants to rural districts that develop a plan to share services such as food, transportation, and school nursing. More than 70 percent of school districts in Colorado are small, rural districts, and 148 districts in the state will be eligible for the grants.

Dale McCall, executive director of the Colorado BOCES Association, said while testifying for the bill that it will be "especially helpful for the 38 districts in the state that have one administrator."

In recent months, Colorado has attempted to provide more support to its rural districts, many of which have struggled to recruit and retain teachers. The state's rural schools serve a high percentage of English-language learners and more than 31 percent of rural students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Rural students in Colorado also have a high mobility rate, according to the Rural School and Community Trust. This year, the state's Department of Higher Education expanded five programs to help rural schools recruit and retain science, technology, engineering, and math teachers.

Nationwide, some rural schools have attempted to share teachers and services to cut down on costs, especially in the midst of budget cuts. It can also be a way to avoid closure or consolidation, which can often be a controversial topic in rural communities

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