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Federal Government Could Better Support Rural Schools and Students, Mahaffey Argues

Robert Mahaffey, executive director of the Rural School and Community Trust in Washington, D.C.,  contended the federal government’s shortcomings in supporting rural schools is contributing to ineffective education across rural states.

In the Friday session at the AASA national conference, “Why Rural Matters 2019,” Mahaffey focused on placing a higher priority on supporting students in rural places. He said a wide range of factors play into the low support of rural students.

The lack of funding in rural schools is contributing to lower per-pupil investment compared to non-rural states. The challenges in funding were affecting rural schools to attract and retain quality educators because of low pay.

Southern and Southeastern states, as well as Alaska, tend to be more rural, with one in six  students living below the poverty line.

“Why do so many other kids matter more than the kids in these states?” Mahaffey said.

Rural students are more likely to outscore non-rural students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and be more likely to partake in dual enrollment courses, he said.

When one audience remember asked about solutions, Mahaffey said the federal government could prevent underfunded schools from having to merge, which leads to lower attendance.

“A kid shouldn’t have to leave [their homes] to be successful,” Mahaffey said.

Both Mahaffey and fellow presenter Alan Richard, chair of Rural Schools and Community Trust, answered questions. Audience members asked about the effects that rural school systems play on students.

Mahaffey invited audience members to further discuss the rural school system at a café across the street from the San Diego Convention Center.

(Carina Muniz is sophomore at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista, Calif., and an intern on AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)

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