Recently, Ashley Nielsen at Living Education was asked by George Otero, a friend and colleague, to do some thinking about the connection between rural schools and their communities. George talked to her about Australia’s Schools First program, which created government incentives for schools to work in close collaboration with their surrounding communities. He is now working with a group of people in New Mexico demonstrating an interest in using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to revitalize rural schools right here in the state.
In answer to this request, we (Ashley along with a group of us from Regenesis) spent a couple of hours one morning talking about the connection between rural schools and rural economies. It is fairly well recognized, by the proponents of Schools First and by others, that education improves dramatically when schools work to build supportive connections with their surrounding community. Less widely considered, though, is the contribution that schools themselves make to their community as a whole. This is particularly important in rural areas, where public schools often function as a community asset above and beyond their primary purpose as centers of education. (more…)