Acres of Opportunity: Education in Rural Tennessee

March 25, 2021 9:16AM

Across Tennessee and the country, the discussion about parental choice in education has largely focused on cities and densely populated areas. Though rural school districts are generally comprised of smaller schools, student bodies, and budgets compared to their larger counterparts, rural students are generally an afterthought when it comes to education policy on the state and national level. While most choice programs more heavily emphasize urban communities, rural areas are the ones where educational choice has an immense opportunity to expand.

Urban families have long had access to quality private education for their children—when they can afford it— but rural areas have struggled to provide the same opportunities. And if a public school is unable to cater to a student’s needs and homeschooling is not a possibility, those students can be stuck in schools that may create more problems than solutions. Even for those families in rural areas who have the means to afford private school tuition, the distance from their home to a private school can put that choice out of reach.

Thankfully, there is hope on the horizon for rural education: innovative education models, enhanced student-based funding, and legislative changes at the state and school board levels to remove regulatory barriers would allow rural students to obtain the education that best suits their unique needs.