Monday Roundup: Rural Schools

Rural and urban disparities in schools • A new farmland bubble • What happened to AT&T's broadband promise? • Alexander Payne's next movie will be in Plainview, Nebraska

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There are major disparities in the education provided rural and urban students in Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution finds

The Atlanta paper has written a thorough comparison of urban and rural schooling in the state. What the reporters find is systematic underfunding that has created persistent differences in the education given to children based on where they live.  As a result, rural students score lower on college entrance exams and, once in college, rural students are more likely to need remedial help.

Reporters Kelly Guckian and Jaime Sarrio report:

Most agree that money and location play a role in the disparities between Georgia schools. The AJC analysis specifically shows:

• About 5 percent of students took advanced placement exams in extremely rural areas, compared to more than 20 percent in large suburban districts.

• Rural districts spend about $400 less than others per student. Spending doesn’t guarantee success, but rural superintendents say they can’t afford educational extras that are standard in suburban schools.

• Teachers don’t have the same opportunities for training and development. Those in smaller, poorer districts often face more demands and professional isolation, a barrier to improvement.

The differences from rural to urban are sad. In extremely rural districts, 30 percent of students going to college need remedial help compared to 15.8 percent from large suburban districts. 

In 15 rural districts, no students took an advanced placement exam in 2012. In urban Decatur City Schools, 37 percent of students took an AP exam.

Good story!!

Filming in Plainview — Alexander Payne is filming his latest movie in Plainview, Nebraska, population 1,246. 

Payne is a native Nebraskan (Omaha) and has made some good movies: Citizen Ruth, Election, Sideways, Meet the Parents and The Descendants. He’s made four movies in Nebraska.

Brazil Farmland Rising — This morning’s Washington Post notes Brazil’s strong entry into the corn market. 

And corn is only the beginning of Brazil’s farming prowess. “We will surpass the U.S. in the future,” said Ronaldo Spirlandelli de Oliveira, head of the Sao Paulo cotton growers association. Brazil is also producing loads of sugar and poultry.

Ag competition has spurred several disputes within the World Trade Organization between Brazil and the U.S., disputes which the article outlines.

The Definition of ‘Diversity’? — The New York Times reports this morning about the good people of Wyoming who are facing the reality that America elected a “liberal tax-and-spender president….” Jack Healy writes

But since the election, a blanket of baffled worry has descended on conservatives here like early snow across the plains, deepening a sense that traditional, rural and overwhelmingly white states in the center of the country are losing touch with an increasingly diverse and urban American electorate.

So, what does “diverse” mean? Healy is writing that the share of “white” voters is declining — thus the country is becoming more “diverse.”

However, he’s also saying that “traditional” and “conservative” voters are no longer part of the picture in much of the country.

In other words, the country is becoming more diverse racially, but LESS diverse politically and in terms of values, in the way we think, act and behave.

That’s not the point Jack Healy is trying to make, but that’s what he’s saying. Diversity is confined to race, these days, not thought or geography.

A Farmland Bubble — The American Enterprise Institute says the “current US farmland market is showing patterns similar to the market bubble of the 1970s.” 

Alex Pollock reports that real farmland prices have been rising for the past 17 years and “are now higher than at the peak of the previous bubble.” When that last bubble burst in the 1980s, prices fell 27 percent, “causing widespread bankruptcies and foreclosures and triggering a bailout of a government-sponsored enterprise.”

AT&T’s Promise — When AT&T purchased BellSouth, AT&T promised that that it would offer broadband Internet to every customer in its territory by the end of 2007, writes the Huffington Post’s Gerry Smith. Five years later, however, people are still waiting. 

Smith reports from rural Mississippi:

The disconnect here in rural Mississippi highlights a major shortcoming of American telecommunications policy, consumer advocates say. Time and again, regulators have approved enormous mergers in exchange for promises that companies will extend high-speed Internet to underserved communities. Time and again, companies have pocketed the profits from those deals while regulators have failed to enforce their obligations.

“Companies make all sorts of promises about how the deal is going to be for the public good and often it’s just hot air,” said Benjamin Lennett, a policy director at the New America Foundation. “They’re trying to get their merger approved. No one is going to hold them to account.”

Rural Votes Vital to Washington’s Marriage Law — Laurel Ramseyer writes that votes from rural Washington were essential to passage of Washington state’s freedom to marry law. 

Sure, most rural counties voted against the referendum (which approves same sex marriage), but plenty of people in these counties voted for the law. Without those votes, Ramseyer contends, it wouldn’t have passed.

 

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