Rachel's Notes: May 6, 2008

Last Updated: May 06, 2008

The Forum for Education and Democracy has released its report "Democracy at Risk: The Need for a new Federal Education Policy." See www.forumforeducation.org for a copy. Many of the authors of the report will be influential policy advisors if one of the Democrats is elected President in November. While I applaud the prominence given to equitable funding, quality teaching, research and development, and community engagement, I am disappointed that the report gives no attention to rural issues.

So I would add the following recommendations to their list:
  1. In the section on the need for funding equity, include a recommendation to correct the discrimination in the current Title I formula that sends money from the poorest rural school districts to the largest districts in America often much less poor. See our website for details. No urban district has to lose if this is fixed.
  2. In the section on teacher quality, add a recommendation to target the investment proposed in teacher preparation to low income rural regions as well as big cities. Target five regions within the U.S.: the Delta, the Black Belt, the Southwest border states, Central Appalachia, and the Northern Great Plains. The teacher residency programs, similar to the one proposed for big city districts, are commendable, but need to focus on a low income rural regions as well.
  3. Support research and development in the rural regions. For example: What are the best practices to deal with the huge expansion of English language learners in low income rural districts?
  4. Create an Office of Rural Education Policy in the U.S. Education Department (like the office of Rural Health Policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources) to evaluate the impact of existing and proposed laws and regulations on low income rural places. This creates an internal advocate for rural issues at the USED. We rural partisans are weary of people who come to our meetings, say nice things about rural schools and communities, but never carry any of our messages about needs back into the USED.
This is the first of several reports that will be issued in the next few months as various interest groups position themselves to influence those running for election. Look for one from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) that also has strong recommendations and a group of influential signers. More to come in the following months.


Many states will be holding Dropout Summits over the next few months sponsored by State Farm and a group of other corporations and foundations. For more information go to www.americaspromise.org/APA.aspx and click on the Dropout Summit section.

The focus here will be entirely on cities unless rural leaders in each state get involved and raise the rural school issues. The research that supports this activity is Bob Balfanz’s article on dropout factories. And as Bob always reminds everyone, the biggest problems are in two places: big cities and rural and small town schools in the southeast and southwest. See www.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/techReports/Report70.pdf.

As always, keep in contact.

Rachel Tompkins