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ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012

Wenfan Yan The ACEF Journal Vol. 3, No. 1, 2012, pp. 17-36 Educational Equity in Rural Schools: Analysis of Rural Pennsylvania School Building Needs View PDF Abstract The shifting population trends across United States and Pennsylvania make it essential for policy makers to know the future enrollment trends and school building facility needs. A statewide survey was conducted and questionnaires were sent to approximately 243 school districts in rural Pennsylvania. While the majority of rural school district superintendents reported that the school building conditions were satisfactory, a sizable minority reported their building conditions were unsatisfactory. Many aging rural school buildings are not up-to-date with required maintenance. In addition, many rural Pennsylvania schools will experience severe under enrollment, at times more than 25% below their capacity. The proportion of rural schools experiencing under enrollment will differ somewhat by geographic region. Recommendations are offered regarding some policy considerations that state policymakers and school districts can utilize to improve rural school building conditions in Pennsylvania. Given the shifting population trends across the United States and Pennsylvania, it is important for school districts to know what to expect, in terms of enrollment and facility needs, in the coming years, as the investment in school facilities plays a significant role in creating and maintaining world-class learning environments for students (Watts Hull, 2009). The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s (2012) analysis on school enrollment projections shows a mixed picture for rural districts. Between 2005 and 2012, 115 rural school districts are projected to have a significant decline in enrollment (15% or greater decline), while 10 rural school districts are projected to have a significant increase in enrollment (15% or greater increase). Current data were subject to unexpected changes. Some rural districts with a projected significant enrollment decline experienced a significant in-migration of new residents (The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 2012). Planning for such fluctuations in advance of changing needs is necessary in order to make effective use of resources. Compounding the matter, statistical models and surveys currently available in other states do not match the needs of Pennsylvania’s rural districts (Ilsley, 2002; Neblock, 1996; Peters, 1997). Pennsylvania is one of the most rural states in the United States. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania (2012) identifies 48 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to be rural and 235 of the state’s 500 public school districts to be rural. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) (2005) projected that enrollment in rural schools will decline; yet in-migration is causing significant population increases in some districts (The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 2012). In both situations, consolidation or expansion of schools may require renovation and/or new construction. This major investment in school facilities, Watts Hull (2009) argues is a significant component of creating and maintaining world-class learning environments for students. The statistics about school buildings in disrepair are alarming. About 57% of Pennsylvania schools have had at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition, 21% have had at least one building needing extensive repair or replacement, and 17% lacked the infrastructure to support technology in the classroom (Pennsylvania Department of Education, 17


ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012
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