According to a July 2023 report in the Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA), state legislators have proposed to add $60 million to the state’s annual budget to fund rural school districts. Those districts include Franklin County, where declining enrollments and limited real estate tax revenues have resulted in inadequate funding compared to other schools in the state. Students in rural areas often receive lower quality, unequal education, compared with peers in the rest of the state, due to lack of funding.
Exacerbating the problem, the cost of maintaining schools with low enrollment is higher than schools with greater enrollment, with ripple effects on the quality of education available to students in those schools. Despite these districts’ efforts to trim their budgets, they are still unable to provide adequate learning environments.
Real estate taxes typically generate school funding. However, state-owned land does not produce tax revenues for local schools. Franklin County, for example, includes 460,000 acres of state land that generates no tax revenues.
State legislators in Massachusetts are not alone in seeking legislative solutions to these problems. Overall, the Telegram and Gazette reported, “Some 37 states throughout the U.S. have responded to the fiscal challenges faced by rural schools by increasing aid to schools.”
The corporate media tend to cover education issues in more populated areas, often neglecting challenges that are particular to rural communities. When laws and regulations are developed, the corporate media often fail to consider impacts on less populated communities.
As a result of under-reporting issues in rural communities by the corporate media, solutions to problems faced by rural communities are made more difficult. Without adequate news coverage, the issue may be unknown or seem to lack urgency, to many people, who might otherwise be mobilized to push for policies that promote educational equity in rural communities. Despite neglect by corporate news media, rural school districts deserve an equal opportunity for a quality education.
Source: Kinga Borondy, “Rural Lawmakers Back Mass. Schools Funding Bill to Increase Money for Rural Schools,” Telegram & Gazette, July 20, 2023.
Student Researchers: Alexander Bozoglos, Aine Doyle, Mina Pabst, Hannah Sylvester, and Katelyn Warner (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluators: Allison Butler and Jeewon Chon (University of Massachusetts Amherst)