RCRC’s policies on education hinge primarily on the need to ensure adequate educational opportunities for rural students, and to allow for an appropriately trained robust workforce in our rural areas. Access to primary and higher education is often stymied in rural areas by rugged geography and a limited availability of advanced or vocational education courses in the K-12 system. RCRC supports policy that allows for and improves alternative educational opportunities, such as increased usage of distance learning, and broadening the eligibility for concurrent enrollment for high school students, as well as supporting direct access to education through Home-to-School transportation and budgetary support for community colleges.
Home-to-School Transportation (HTST): The Home-to-School Transportation (HTST) program reimburses school districts for a share of transportation expenditures; however, districts’ funding levels have been locked in at the rates they received in the early 1980s, and because allocations are based on historical participation, several school districts and charter schools are excluded from receiving HTST funding. With transportation costs only partially funded by the State, the remaining costs are incurred by the school district itself, which creates a tremendous financial hardship on school districts in rural communities.
The current HTST mechanism is based on an outdated, unequitable formula that fails to reflect increases in the cost of living, transportation costs, and higher student enrollment. RCRC supports a funding system that works towards equalizing HTST to ensure rural school districts get their fair share of funding.
The Legislature has attempted to address the inconsistencies with HTST both legislatively and through the State Budget process, but with no permanent solution yet finalized. RCRC supports any efforts to bring permanence and fairness to HTST funding.
Concurrent Enrollment: Concurrent enrollment is a system that permits high school students to enroll in courses at local community colleges such that they can pursue advanced academic courses or vocational type courses that are not available to them through their high school. RCRC has been a strong supporter of expanding course availability and eligibility, which increase a student’s access to additional educational opportunities that are not typically available in rural and remote school districts with low enrollment. The current caps on concurrent enrollment make it virtually impossible for students from low-population districts to participate, since they are formulated on a percentage of class size. In many rural areas, that percentage amounts to less than one student of the high school class.
Much like HTST, concurrent enrollment is a bi-partisan issue, with legislators from rural and urban communities seeking its expansion to broaden the educational opportunities for students at schools with limited options. The concept of concurrent enrollment has long been opposed by the California Teachers’ Association, and despite bipartisan rural, suburban, and urban legislative support, this issue remains unresolved.
Staff: Tracy Rhine