Whitesburg KY

Population loss worries Kentucky’s top schools chief

The urbanization of America and the loss of population in rural areas is causing problems for schools in those areas, some of which are caught up in a downward spiral due to job losses, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says on his blog.

“The loss of student population means the loss of federal, state and local revenue for our schools,” Holliday writes. “The loss of revenue means fewer teachers and fewer course offerings for students. The loss of revenue means less funding for teacher pay increases which means the gap between teacher availability in rural settings and urban settings will grow. This is especially evident when rural settings try to hire math, science, and special education teachers. The loss of revenue means less funding to build and maintain school facilities.

“Our normal solution in the past has been to push for more education. However, this creates a conundrum. If we educate more students to higher levels, then those with more education will seek better paying jobs and when no jobs are available, the talent will leave for areas that have jobs.”

In Holliday’s adopted state, most of the rural population losses are in eastern Kentucky. He says a possible solution to that is the Saving Our Appalachian Region initiative. “The key question is, how do we build the infrastructure in Kentucky to recruit business and industry to locate in rural areas so that talented and educated individuals can remain in their rural communities and build the future? Hopefully, SOAR will be successful so our local schools and districts can be successful. The alternatives are not very desirable for those communities.”

Holliday, a native of North Carolina, doesn’t use the word “consolidation,” but refers to confl icts between Kentucky’s county and independent city school systems, and says it’s better for local communities to resolve those issues without state involvement. Recently, the Monticello district was absorbed by Wayne County, after the state found that its financial future was poor.

Source: University of Kentucky Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues

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