Georgia’s rural schools face big problems with money, transportation, more

A recent report noted a multitude of issues facing Georgia’s rural schools

The state ranks sixth in the nation on a priority list developed by a group called The Rural School and Community Trust.

The Trust’s latest “Why Rural Matters” report noted Georgia’s high rural poverty rate, high transportation expenses and low graduation rates and test scores.

Mississippi topped the list of states whose rural schools face the greatest unmet needs, followed by Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, then Georgia, followed by Nevada, Florida, Oklahoma and Alaska.

The report is one more indication of the woes facing Georgia’s rural communities. Many have been losing population in recent years and are classified as economically distressed. A committee of the state Legislature has been holding meetings around the state to hear ideas about what to do about rural Georgia’s crisis.

Nearly half of the state’s 159 counties, many rural, lost population in the first years of this decade, according to an analysis last year by University of Georgia demographer Matthew Hauer. The state’s growth was concentrated mainly in two places – metro Atlanta and the Savannah area.

Only two states, North Carolina and Texas, had more students in rural school districts than Georgia’s 380,000 in 2013-14, though the percentage of the students in the state that go to rural schools — 22.3 percent as of the 2013-14 school year — puts Georgia in the middle of the pack. Only 10 states have a higher percentage of school districts that are classified as rural, according to the new report. But the percentage of the state’s students in rural schools, 22.3 percent, is in the middle of the pack.

On average, students in Georgia’s rural schools post lower scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a standardized test used to compare educational achievement in fourth and eighth grades nationwide. Georgia fourth-graders…

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