The emphasis on school choice by the current administration in Washington D.C. could have disastrous effects on many rural public school districts in Maine, and especially in the economically hard hit northern mill towns. The schools would lose critical funding and they would also lose the social focus of their community if choice were the main policy coming from the Department of Education. Already there have been problems as the populations in the area age and the tax base shrinks. This situation has resulted in the closing of programs and the doubling up of responsibilities in schools.
In addition, there are few choices for students in rural
areas and those that do exist are very far away from where the students might
live. Instead of school choice, policies that address the needs of the rural
public schools are badly needed. Just over half the Maine’s students attend
rural public schools and their needs have not been addressed specifically in the
past. Nor, it seems, will they be addressed in the near future. In her stated
opposition to Betsy DeVos’s appointment as Secretary of Education, Senator Susan
Collins of Maine cited DeVos’s lack of experience with public schools in general
and their challenges in rural areas in particular.
NCTE. has long advocated for public education. In fact, in its mission statement it lists public education as one of its core values stating that it “supports inclusive, public education run in such a way that teachers can teach and students can learn.”
Further, it “supports teacher-based school reform efforts as well as recognizes the value of independent schools when these efforts do not undermine or otherwise devalue public education for all.”
There have been many recent articles about public education in rural areas of the United States. Catharine Biddle of the University of Maine and Daniella Hall of Northwestern University suggest that schools themselves work with communities for change and provide citizenship education that will give students voice in promoting policies that are rooted in the local rather than simply educating them to exit their communities for the global economy. (See link below.)