Washington, DC—Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced today that he has joined a push to elevate the voice of rural schools in Colorado and across the country to ensure their unique needs and challenges are addressed.
The Office of Rural Education Policy Act, which Bennet is co-sponsoring, would require the U.S. Department of Education to study the effect of proposed regulations on rural schools. It would establish an office within the Education Department specifically responsible for representing the needs of rural schools. The Act would help eliminate frustrating bureaucratic hurdles by setting up a clearinghouse and coordinating separate offices and policies that affect rural education within the Education Department.
“As I have traveled around the state, I’ve heard from teachers and administrators working in rural schools about the unique challenges they face,” Bennet said. “Rural schools need a voice in Washington to ensure that the policies coming from Washington support rather than hinder their efforts.”
“This legislation reminds us all of our rural roots and the need to coordinate and re-focus our efforts on fairness, equity and quality for our rural children, their schools and their communities,” said Jane W. Urschel, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards.
Rural schools face unique challenges and are often able to provide unique benefits to their students. They face numerous challenges including small enrollments, federal and state education funding inequities, geographic isolation, challenges in recruiting and retaining effective teachers and leaders, and limited access to advanced courses.
According to the Digest of Education Statistics reported annually by the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students attending rural schools increased by over 11 percent, from 10.5 million to nearly 11.7 million between the 2004-2005 and 2008-2009 school years. The share of the nation’s public school enrollment attending rural schools increased from 17.9 percent to 21.6 percent.