I recently had the honor of being asked by the American Association of School Administrators to testify before the Congressional Sub-Committee on reauthorization of what is known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Congressman Castle is senior minority member of that committee and he and his staff helped me out a lot with understanding the process – kept me from getting too scared. I was asked to speak on the important issues for rural school districts in ESEA. If you go to the committee site at http://edlabor.house.gov/hearings/ecese/ and click on the archives button for March 18 you’ll be able to see the web cast and a full copy of my written testimony. What follows is a summary of that testimony.
Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education
Committee on Education and Labor
March 18, 2010
Testimony of Dr. Daniel Curry, Superintendent
Lake Forest School District, Kent County Delaware
I come today to speak on behalf or rural school districts. I have been a superintendent for 22 years in West Virginia and Delaware. In my testimony I will make the following key points about the nature of rural districts:
• Rural school districts are by definition poor with little in the way of property value that adds to the tax base.
• Rural districts, due to geographic isolation, often find it difficult to attract new professionals.
• Rural districts, with necessarily small schools, must give teacher multiple assignments which leads challenges when it comes to federally required Highly Qualified teachers.
• Qualified teachers in Math, Science and Special Education are hard to find.
• Rural districts generally have small, often shared central office staff members who wear multiple hats.
• Rural districts don’t often have individuals dedicated to grant writing.
• Tech support is often home-grown.
Reauthorization of ESEA and rural school districts:
• ESEA funding is and always has been crucial to student success in rural areas.
• Formula funding, based upon poverty rates is the fairest means of distribution of ESEA funds.
• Making ESEA funding competitive would only broaden the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
• Gauge student progress through measuring growth.
• Gauge special education student progress on growth as measured through their I.E.P..
• There is nothing special about special education if they are held to the same achievement standard as all other students, when by definition they are struggling learners.
• Small schools can easily have student performance measures skewed by the performance of just a couple of students.
• Graduation rates should be calculated on the number of students who successfully complete the high school program no matter how many years it takes.
Finally, on behalf of the 6000 school districts which depend upon the funds provided by the Rural Education Achievement Program, I urge your support of HR 2446 and reauthorize REAP.