Can Expanding Charter Schools Under Betsy DeVos Work In Rural America?

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 18, 04:00 am
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Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans an expansion in charter schools across America but critics say this might not work in rural areas.
(Photo : Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Rural schools in America do not usually end up in discussions relating to national issues but Betsy DeVos' appointment as the head of the Department of Education is changing the conversation. Her plan of expanding charter schools is putting the agenda in the forefront as it could impact rural areas. Observers and critics of the new administration, however, wonder how this system will work.

Currently, around 9.7 million of students in America attend rural schools and a quarter of these students are in charter schools. Only, there's a clear difference between rural charter schools and urban charter schools in its operation, as per The Conversation.

Despite funding shortages, rural charter schools thrive and operate to anchor the needs of the community. Members or residents themselves, many of them parents, manage and decide on school matters compared to education companies that manage urban charter schools.

Communities open rural charter schools to sustain social activities, livelihood and employment. More often than not, students are molded to give back to the community instead of encouraged to leave and uproot their lives elsewhere.

Rural charter schools often have a small student population and these institutions do not compete against other schools in the district since community building and sustainment are its main purpose. These sites are often isolated, with little teaching staff or facilities, Education Post notes.

Some believe expanding rural charter schools won't help the education system in rural areas because of these deeply-rooted community-centered traditions. According to Huffington Post, there also isn't enough market for rural charter schools, especially when DeVos' idea is driven towards for-profit and business generating charter schools.

There's also not enough money or enrollment numbers to support charter school expansions in rural school districts. Families in rural areas also do not concern themselves with school choice for as long as there is one school helping the community, USA Today reports. Federal money should then instead go to rebuilding and improving existing schools, including public schools, instead of expanding rural charter schools.

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