Rachel Tompkins, president of the Rural School and Community Trust, wrote a provocative article in Education Week (January 16, 2008) about the importance of rural schools in the alleviation of poverty. She shows for example that rural schools serve almost a quarter of all students; that retaining rural schools is less about football and more about community identity and well being; and that the poorest rural districts have more Title I students than Philadelphia. She starts her argument by recalling President Kennedy's campaign stops in West Virginia where he ultimately won with 75 percent of the vote. She recalls that he made stops all over the state to learn first-hand about the hardships being faced in the coalfields and in West Virginia's poor rural areas. We need that again. We need our candidates to see that the poverty that existed 50 years ago still exists...and where. We need candidates to understand that there is a clear connection between poverty and quality education as researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill have shown. With John Edward's out of the race, we have got to be sure that the other candidates on both sides of the aisle have poverty and education front and center.
And to say once again, if you want to do something about poverty today in your community--keep kids in school or at least be sure they are in school. Read Rachel's article yourself. We need strong rural schools. They are often overlooked.