Congressman Dave Loebsack recently reintroduced legislation that would provide greater support to rural communities to ensure that students attending rural schools have access to the same resources as their urban counterparts. Currently, rural schools have fewer financial resources than non-rural schools, which has created challenges to teacher recruitment and retention, and resulted in a lack of quality expanded learning time programs for students. Loebsack’s Restructuring Underutilized Resources for Advancing Learning (RURAL) Act contains three key components that will help recruit and retain teachers by creating a tax incentive for teachers and school leaders in high poverty or rural areas, highlight the importance of rural education by establishing an Office of Rural Education Policy within the Department of Education, and improve and increase access to expanded learning time programs in rural areas.
In 2015, a portion of this bill that expanded digital learning opportunities in rural areas was included in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by then-President Obama.
“Across the nation, one fourth of all public school students live in rural areas with a quarter of these students living in poverty. At the same time, rural schools have fewer financial resources than their urban counterparts. As a result, rural schools have unique barriers to overcome. They often struggle to recruit and retain quality teachers, provide access to high quality digital learning, and provide after school programs,” said Loebsack. “As Co-Chair of the House Rural Education Caucus, I believe it is time for Congress to start providing additional resources and support to ensure that students attending school in rural communities are not forgotten.”
Specifically, the RURAL Act is comprised of three key policy components that will increase the educational capacity of students attending rural schools:
Provide a tax incentive for National Board certified teachers, individuals teaching in rural or high poverty areas and school leaders in high poverty or rural areas
- $1,000 tax credit for an individual teaching in a school where at least 75% of the students receive free or reduced lunch or for an individual teaching in school with a locale code of 32, 33, 41, 42 or 43. Teachers that are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards will receive an additional $1,000 credit for a total of $2,000.
- $1,000 tax credit for a principal, assistant principal, superintendent or other administrator in a school with a locale code of 32, 33, 41, 42 or 43
Establish an Office of Rural Education Policy within the Department of Education
- The Office of Rural Education Policy shall be headed by a Director that will advise the Secretary of Education on the characteristics and needs of rural schools when proposing and implementing policies
- The Director would also maintain a clearinghouse for disseminating information on innovative approaches to rural education as well as identifying alarming trends in rural school districts
Improve and increase expanded learning time programs in rural areas
- Would establish a competitive grant program for local educational agencies (LEAs), community-based organizations and other eligible entities to establish and improve expanded learning time programs, including after-school programs
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