Solution Proposal Final Katie

Rural vs. Urban School Funding

Imagine a rural school. What comes to mind? For most its probably a school in the middle of nowhere, has not much more than 500 students (that’s kindergarten through twelfth grade), and a place where every knows each other. This is a pretty accurate assumption of what a rural school is like. Now imagine an urban school. Most people think of an urban school as being in or near a city, having thousands of students at only the high school level, and graduating with a class of over 300 people. These are just a few of the differences between rural schools and urban schools.

One of the key differences between rural and urban schools is that the course offerings that are available at the high school level are far more limited for rural schools than urban schools. This is not only due to a smaller enrollment, but also because rural schools are lacking in funds. The reason rural schools are lacking funds is because the state doesn't distribute money equally between rural and urban schools.

Many rural schools across the country are being faced with the challenge of lacking school funds. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about twelve million students attended rural schools in the United States in 2010 compared to about five million in urban schools. That means that 70% of students attend rural school. That is a huge majority out of all students. With this being said, people are wondering why rural schools aren't being funding enough. For each state, there is a specific funding formula to determine how much each school will be funded. What happens though when the formula isn't accurate anymore because of various reasons? Many schools throughout the states are being faced with this challenge. Kelli Jacobi, a superintendent in Rhinelander Wisconsin, states, "This is startling to me, that a district with free and reduced lunch numbers as high as 47%, …gets 17% state aid. That has been declining over the years and that's where we are now" (Nesemann, 2013). In other words, Jacobi is saying that she is surprised that the state is funding so little to schools that have such high poverty. A while back, the state of Georgia issued a lawsuit arguing that the state was violating the Georgia Constitution by not spending enough money to provide an adequate education. Joe Martin, a former Georgia, Atlanta school board president, states the "The purpose of the lawsuit is not to criticize anyone but to ask the courts of Georgia to resolve a constitutional issue" (Salzer, 2004). In other words, Joe asserts that the courts of Georgia need to change something in their constitution in order to provide an adequate education for their students. The state not providing enough funds for rural schools is just one cause to the problem of a lack of school funds. Brenda Foster, a Barnesville parent with two children, spoke out with concern for the students in rural schools. She states, " I think our kids lack the opportunities to prepare for a good job," (Salzer, 2004). Brenda is insisting that schools should be funded more in order to prepare students for jobs. In Parker's article How Rural Schools are Being Shortchanged, Mark Pryor suggest that:

"Every student deserves a quality education. Unfortunately, current educational policies are set up to favor urban and suburban school districts. Our students deserve better. That's why I'm committed to correcting this inequity and reforming our education policies to ensure that every Arkansas student has the resources and tools they need to succeed" (Parker, 2004).

The difference in how much rural schools and urban schools are provided with school funds is important because schools are competing for teachers with credentials. A district with less money may not have the opportunity to keep teachers with credentials simply because they cannot pay them. Another reason why this is so important is that these funding inequalities have added up over the years; so now students living in rural schools are faced with the challenge to have access to textbooks and various other school supplies. Lastly why people should be concerned with my argument is because in urban schools because they have extra money they have more opportunities for improvements such as: libraries, arts programs, concealing, and building modernization. These are all good reasons why people should do something about the unequal distribution of funds between rural and urban schools.

Small community size is one of the many causes of poor funding for rural schools. Rural communities often have small town populations, which means lower student enrollment in their schools than their urban counterparts. Although low student enrollment can mean small class sizes and lower teacher-student ratios, it also usually means fewer staff members overall. A national survey of superintendents found that teachers in rural secondary schools that are understaffed are often forced to teach several subjects in one content area or more than one content area. Teaching multiple content areas and thus having to prepare several lesson plans results in teachers having to spread themselves too thin and can, in turn, limit networking opportunities for teachers instructing similar courses to get ideas from each other (NCEE, 2014). If there were more funding available to increase the resources for staff and faculty in these schools, they would be able to increase the quality of education in the classroom rather than increase production of scarce resources. During the 2010-11 school year, the average student enrollment in nine rural schools was 489, compared with an average student enrollment of 641 in all SIG-awarded schools for the 2009-10 school year. Twenty-four Teachers from five of the nine schools said that they felt restricted by their schools’ small faculty. One teacher said, “We have to do all the things the bigger districts do, but we have to do it with infinitely less people, playing multiple roles.” One case study in the NCEE report looked at a small school with less than 400 students enrolled. In this case study, they identified several key issues. First, the principal, teachers, and parents said that the school has had difficulty filling leadership and teaching positions. Respondents noted that a number of principals and district administrators had left the district after short tenures, in part due to the isolated nature of the school and the community. The principal noted that it is “hard to attract people to the middle of nowhere, especially when the school’s immediate community offers few job
opportunities for teachers’ spouses” (NCEE, 2014).

Another cause of why there is such poor funding for rural schools is because of how schools get money. Schools get money through basic funding, categorical funds, parcel taxes, and private funds. Basic funding is what pays for teachers and other routine operations. This money comes from the state and local property taxes. Because rural schools tend to be small, they get far less local tax revenue than urban schools that have such a high population. Categorical funds are used for special purposes such as special education. This money comes from the state or federal government, which is distributed, based on need and which schools require the most help in this area of special education. Lastly, private funds are things like foundations that raise money for schools. Foundations are much larger in urban school districts than in rural because how many people there is to donate in a larger community.

A lot of people believe that there is no difference between rural and urban schools, but I beg to differ. When you look at both an urban school district and a rural school district there is a clear difference between the two, the most noticeable is size. Size, like I said before, is a big reason why rural schools aren't funded as much as urban schools. This isn't something that rural schools can really change because then they would just become an urban school. What I am saying is that there are clear differences that contribute to an unequal distribution of money between rural schools and urban schools.

What should be done about the inequality of how funds are distributed to rural schools and urban schools? One solution is that each state needs to spend as much money or more on each child's education as any other state. As the system improves itself for all students, it will eliminate the inequalities in funds between rural and urban schools. Other solutions such as rural schools implementing a four-day week or a more modern schedule will not work. This solution simply won’t work because it doesn’t actually save as much money as some schools would have hoped. At my high school they tried the four-day week for three years. In the end the each school year, they saved close to $100,000. This may seem like a lot, but in reality it barely makes a dent in the grand scheme of things. Yes this allowed our school to keep one more teacher that we might have had to cut at the end of the year, but what about everything else that a school needs. This is why my solution, that each state needs to put more money into rural schools is better.

Every student deserves to have equal opportunities for education and to be able to learn the content in the states standards whether in a rural or urban school. With my solution for each state to spend more money in order to provide rural schools with better funds, students attending rural schools will be able to prepare themselves for the future, have more opportunities, and to have an overall better school experience.

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