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Rural Advocates Criticize Place-Based Report But Like Concept

A new federal report on how agencies can better work together to make an impact on communities nationwide lacks rural examples and says little about the realities facing rural areas, according to a national rural education advocacy group.

The Rural School and Community Trust offered its analysis on a federal report released in June. Although the Rural Trust criticized the report, it said the federal government's new perspective could have good implications for rural areas.

"Impact in Place: A Progress Report on the Department of Education's Place-Based Strategy" describes how the current administration's place-based approach works on all of the issues in a community to further leverage federal support and outcomes.

A place-based approach means focusing on a group of people connected by geography, rather than on specific programs or people. Federal officials contend that tackling problems that are linked—think low-paying jobs, inadequate housing and health care, and low-performing schools—with connected solutions will maximize results, according to the report.

The Rural Trust offered a number of critiques in its June issue of Rural Policy Matters, saying the strategies presented likely would be difficult to execute in a rural context. They specifically mention rural challenges such as a lack of existing services, distance, and transportation. They say the report also tends to define communities by what's lacking rather than by their assets.

Still, they applauded the report for its advocacy of tracing programs to the neighborhood level, which could provide new information on the federal resources that are invested in specific rural communities.

"Despite these drawbacks, 'Impact in Place' represents a significant shift in orientation away from isolated programs to the place where the programs are supposed to make a difference," according to the Rural Trust. "That signals the possibility of a good directional change for rural communities."

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