Saturday, October 4, 2008

A boon for (some) rural schools, but is this how we should be making policy?

Just saw this in the Daily Yonder, indicating that $3.3 billion for rural school funding was added by the Senate the financial bail-out package finally passed by the House of Representatives late this week. These particular funds will be most useful to Western states because they finance for four more years the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. Under that law, rural communities are paid for revenues lost as timber harvesting is restricted on federal lands. According to the Daily Yonder, payments will go to 700 counties in 39 states, with the greatest beneficiaries being Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

No doubt, this was not the only bit of pork added to the bail-out package in order to bring various Senators and Members of Congress on board. Nevertheless, I found this especially interesting as I am now in southern Utah, on vacation, and contemplating the situation of students here. In particular, I am in San Juan County, in the far southeastern part of the state, and just read in a local weekly paper that two of 12 schools in the county are failing under No Child Left Behind. I also recall this New York Times story from a several years ago about this very county, where students spend up to 4 hours on the bus each day. Certainly, San Juan County's population density of less than 1 person for every two square miles presents formidable challenges to education.

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