Count Us In: Advancing Equity in Rural Schools and Communities
In January 2020, MAEC began planning its annual Equity Institute with a focus on advancing equity for rural schools and communities. Rurality, as it is not legally a protected class, is often left out of conversations about civil rights and equity. However, clear intersections connect rurality with poverty, racism, religious intolerance, gender-based discrimination, and nationality-based hostility. Rural communities experience obstacles to expanding opportunity and achievement due to lack of access to high-quality child care and K-12 educational opportunities, barriers to healthcare and mental health supports, and viable employment opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic forced MAEC and its Equity Institute partners, the Office for Civil Rights Philadelphia Office, West Virginia University, and McAndrews Law Office, to postpone the on-site event.
As the United States witnesses the impact of COVID-19 on rural communities–the deepened digital divide, lost jobs at the plants and factories economically anchoring rural communities, closed hospitals or unreachable health care services, greater food insecurity for children not receiving meals at schools–the need for rural conversation seems more important than ever. To continue the conversation, MAEC compiled a series of essays, articles, and research to tackle the question: how do we, as a society, value and support rural students and families? Thus this special edition of Exploring Equity Issues was born.
The rural community understands that the solutions needed in rural areas are inherently singular and will not likely come from transplanted metropolitan solutions. They will emerge through community innovation and local human talent and vision; and these solutions will only take root if they are supported by equity-based, systemic, and sustained national and state-level resources. This series seeks to paint a picture of a few of the many dimensions that characterize rural America. By exploring intersecting rural identities and challenges, we can see how the lived experiences and unique strengths of rural students enriches our educational system and our communities.
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