Land for Granted: The Effects of Acreage Policies on Rural Schools and Communities

Last Updated: December 01, 2003

Land for Granted

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By Barbara Kent Lawrence

Requirements for minimum acreage for school facility projects may logically be viewed as non-threatening for rural districts. After all, land in rural areas is, by definition, abundant and sparsely populated. Unfortunately, this assumption takes rural land for granted. Rural land is often unsuitable for school sites and in many states much of it is public land held for other purposes. For many rural school districts, minimum acreage requirements pose significant practical problems.

The most damaging aspect of acreage policies is that they are part of a constellation of policies that encourage large schools on large sites and function to dismantle small schools. These include policies that make state aid for facilities contingent on minimum student enrollment, support new construction over renovation, and provide financial incentives for district consolidation.

This issue brief explores the implications of minimum acreage requirements for rural districts and communities, and suggests policy changes that can reduce or eliminate problems caused by poorly conceived minimum acreage regulations.