Rural schools in Massachusetts face unique challenges. And those challenges are top of mind with members of the Massachusetts Rural Schools Commission. The commission has completed its study on these outlying schools and their needs and released its findings during a virtual hearing on Tuesday morning.

These schools face many challenges...

According to a media release from the Office of State Sen. Adam Hinds, the challenges faced by rural school districts include lower tax bases due to population decline, lower earners and lower property values, and higher per-pupil costs exacerbated by declining enrollments.

The commission made several recommendations...

The Rural Schools Commission, which was established as part of the Student Opportunity Act, has made several recommendations after a lengthy study. The body is calling for at least $60 million to be directed annually towards rural schools and to those with low and declining populations. The commission is also calling for the establishment and complete funding of a rural school transportation reimbursement fund to, according to the study, help offset the immense burden put on rural communities in per-pupil transportation costs.

 

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Here is a list of the recommendation made by the commission:

 

  • Fully fund Line Item 7035-0007 which provides for reimbursement for non-resident pupil transportation reimbursement.
  • Consideration should be given for an annual appropriation of funds to be disbursed to districts with substantial enrollment loss over time.
  • Transitional aid of $200 per pupil should be provided to regional districts in their first three years of operation.
  • Funding should be provided to support the creation of a part-time position at DESE with an employee who would provide expertise in researching, developing, and executing shared service projects among school districts and with municipal governments.
  • Special education extraordinary relief funding should be made available to rural districts having in-district special education rates greater than 20%.
  • Establish a school choice cap for rural districts
  • Rural school districts should only consider purchasing health insurance on their own as a last resort after exhausting all possible pooled insurance groups, trusts, and other means of accessing health insurance benefits.

 

Senator Hinds co-chairs the Rural Schools Commission with Representative Natalie Blais.

 

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