Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Group Forms to Advocate for Rural Schools -

PRINGVILLE, Iowa - School leaders of smaller districts across the state are taking a stand.

They've formed a group called Rural School Advocates of Iowa.

District representatives just started meeting this month, but they’re already getting to work.

It's pretty quiet after school in the hallways of the Springville school district. Other than basketball practice, most of the district's 350 students have gone home.

But behind the scenes school leaders are working on a project of their own.

"Our purpose is to speak up for children in rural school districts, to make sure they get a fair, quality and equal education,” said Springville School Board President Lee Ann Grimley.

The Rural School Advocates of Iowa are taking their mission straight to the statehouse. They're pushing for legislative support that strengthens rural education. Springville's board president and superintendent are both taking part in the new initiative.

"I'm hoping we can get a true understanding of legislators that just because we are small, doesn't mean we are an inferior school -- not at all,” said Springville Community Schools Superintendent Brian Ney.

The group has a list of concerns to discuss with law makers.

"Transportation costs, operational sharing costs, flexibility in some of the funds that we operate, those kinds of things hit us maybe a little bit harder than bigger school districts do," Grimley said.

The Springville school leaders said rural districts drive farther to pick up students. That cost isn't easy to cover under current funding rules.

"We want enough money to fund the school is what we want to do,” Superintendent Ney said.

The group is just getting started, but its members are already making trips to Des Moines to stay on top of all the issues.

The group said it may eventually hire someone to help them lobby for their issues at the State Capitol. Their goal is to eventually get representatives from at least 30 small districts involved.

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