Feds turn attention to rural schools

The U.S. Department of Education has set up a new website for rural education and will spend August holding events and engaging in outreach events concerning rural ed.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan grew up in Hyde Park and ran Chicago Public Schools before President Obama hired him. Folks in South Dakota and other rural states have criticized his policies for being urban-centric. To wit:
* School improvement grants call on low-scoring schools to replace principals and teachers. But many rural schools have a hard enough time filling positions.
* Competitive grants like Race to the Top have rewarded states that have charter schools. Outside of a group in Rapid City, there’s little interest in charters, which are more of a big-city thing.
I wrote about this disconnect last August. South Dakota’s then-Education Secretary Tom Oster had joined 11 other rural ed chiefs lobbying for rural-friendly legislation.
Duncan seems to be getting the message.
A big competitive grant program, i3, now gives preference to rural schools. I didn’t mention it in my story, but the south-central South Dakota “lab schools” I wrote about last month have applied for an i3 grant.
Duncan said this Monday in a news release:
“Rural schools are critically important to our nation’s future prosperity. As we prepare for the new school year, it is important to recognize the unique opportunities and challenges in rural schools and communities. Our nation needs the skills and talents of rural children and adults. More rural students need to access college and career training beyond high school to meet the needs of their local economies.”