Bucklin High students travel to Topeka to share their perspective on rural Kansas education
On March 18, students from Bucklin High School traveled to Topeka to meet with legislators to discuss the unique qualities of rural Kansas schools and urged lawmakers to keep the challenges facing small, rural schools in mind as they consider issues impacting K-12 education.
Bucklin High students Darja Meskin, Cole Hailey, Allyson Rudd and Madison Loschke went to the State Capitol armed with a presentation they created together that outlined issues facing rural schools and their own perspective on why the challenges facing small schools must not be forgotten by state policy makers. As the students told legislators, “No matter how many kids you have in your school, you still need money to keep the school up and going. Just because we are small doesn’t mean we deserve less opportunities.”
The students’ presentation focused on four key points: 1) the pros and cons of education in a rural school; 2) how students benefit from being educated in a small school; 3) intended and unintended expectations; and 4) funding for small schools.
Allyson Rudd started off by telling lawmakers how small class sizes, individual attention, more opportunities to participate in activities, fewer cliques and less discrimination, the unity of the students and great school pride were all important qualities of rural schools. However, attending school in rural Kansas isn’t without real challenges a lot of urban students don’t face such as less technological opportunities, less class options, adequate classroom funding, and limited opportunities to learn other relevant information due to standardized testing.
Madison Loschke explained how students benefit from being educated in a small school. “Because of more individualized attention, when kids are struggling teachers are able to help them understand the material. Teachers will do all they can to help their students. Teachers know a student’s personal situation, their work pace, their involvement in extracurricular activities, and their support systems at home. In a small school you’re not just a number, you’re a person.”
Darja Meskin’s presentation focused on how rural schools are forced to provide services that are taken for granted in large populated areas, such as mental health services, nursing and physical health, and drug and alcohol abuse. “In many rural schools, preparation for college and future careers is often ignored because rural schools are forced to choose between providing social services to their students or preparing them for the future. Few rural schools have the means to do both.”
Cole Hailey told lawmakers that per-pupil costs are higher in rural schools, but only because of smaller, more manageable class sizes. The average cost-per-pupil in Kansas has increased by approximately $3,000 since 2005, but funding cuts do not meet these costs. “Truly, this is a small price to pay to cultivate the state’s most valuable resource, its children,” Hailey said.
Senator Vicki Schmidt from Topeka, one of seven senators and representatives to meet with the students, said she was impressed by the students’ knowledge and passion. “It is always great to see young people taking a responsibility in their futures,” Schmidt said. “They represented their school and community so well. I expect we’ll see these young leaders achieve great things in the future.”
USD 459 Superintendent Kelly Arnberger, Leighton Rudd, and Jane Hokanson accompanied the students to Topeka. Arnberger said the experience was eye-opening for both the students and legislators. “The students met with legislators from both rural and urban districts,” Arnberger said. “This was a great opportunity for them to tell legislators what it’s like to go to school in rural Kansas and for legislators from different geographical areas to listen to a first-hand perspective they likely do not hear very often. They were true advocates for their school and rural Kansas.”
The Bucklin students’ full presentation can be seen at www.schoolsforqualityeducation.com.