Students at the Vision Education Center in Dillon, S.C.

[imgcontainer] [img:20141202_02.jpg] [source]Photo by Carolyn Van Houten for Al Jazeera America[/source] Students at the Vision Education Center in Dillon, S.C. [/imgcontainer]

In the 20 years that poor, rural school districts in South Carolina have been fighting in court to change the state’s funding formulas, those areas have fallen further behind, according to an analysis by McClatchy news service.

Last month the state Supreme Court ruled that South Carolina must overhaul its public education funding to improve standards for poor, rural districts.

The case started 21 years ago. The final ruling affected eight districts.

The McClatchy analysis found that while poverty rates improved in some counties involved in the suit, the poverty gap between those counties and the rest of the state actually widened while the case wound its way through the courts.Seven of the eight counties are “persistently poor,” meaning more than a fifth of the population has lived in poverty for three decades or more.

Students in the affected districts are majority African-American, reports Aljazeera America. The counties lie along the I-95 corridor in the eastern portion of the state, but interior from metro areas such as Myrtle Beach and Charleston.


Another education story, this one from Ohio, claims that rural students have access to fewer AP classes than students in city schools. The Columbus Dispatch has the story:

A first-of-its-kind analysis of high-school courses offered by Ohio districts finds that students living in poorer, more rural areas of the state have access to fewer overall classes, and far fewer high-level courses, than do students living in suburban and urban districts.

The data show that the average rural district has 146 high-school courses, compared with 241 at suburban schools. However, the actual number of courses offered by all districts is smaller because the data list some courses multiple times if they are offered in more than one grade.

This finding may not be news to many readers of the Daily Yonder. Our first story on the topic goes all the way back to 2008 and cites a lack of AP classes as one reason rural students are less likely to enroll in college.


The Housing Assistance Council “Rural Housing Conference” gets underway today in Washington, D.C. Rick Cohen, who will be one of the presenters at the conference, has a preview at Nonprofit Quarterly. 


It’s hard to sell the benefits of a high-speed bullet train connecting two urban centers to people whose land will be split and windows will be rattled. But the private company trying to build a train route from Dallas to Houston is trying to sell it anyway. Many rural residents along the train’s proposed route worry about the implications of the tracks splitting farm land and the noise of a high-speed train whizzing by their property. Radio station KETR reports:

“I know it’s going to improve Dallas and Houston,” said Janet Jones, who owns land in the proposed train path. “But if they do go through with it, then they’re going to have to take care of us little folks impacted with our travel.” …

In Grimes County, where the two routes take different paths, Betty Shiflett, the county judge, said many residents felt they did not have enough information to develop an opinion. One factor that would weigh heavily, she said, was whether Texas Central Railway followed through on plans to build a station in Grimes County to allow the bullet train to serve nearby College Station.


Some Eastern European leaders are blaming Russia for the anti-fracking movement in their region. They say Russia is backing the movement to discourage development of natural gas in other nations that might compete with Russia’s state-run energy giant, Gazprom.

There’s no evidence to support the claim, reports the New York Times’ Andrew Higgins. But that hasn’t stopped officials in Lithuania and Romania and the former NATO secretary general from accusing Russia of funding environmental opposition to fracking. “Circumstantial evidence, plus large dollops of Cold War-style suspicion, have added to mounting alarm over covert Russian meddling to block threats to its energy stranglehold on Europe,” Higgins reports.


The Gannett news wire has a largely complimentary look at Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, one of only three original members of Obama’s Cabinet who are still on the job. There’s no word on if or when the secretary might step down. Gannet’s Christopher Doering writes: “For now, the country’s 30th secretary of agriculture said he enjoys his job and is ‘lucky’ to have it. While Vilsack has been mum about his future, he acknowledged he’s been contacted by people gauging his interest in a job in the private sector.”


More folks are discussing the “rural brain gain,” a narrative that counters the assertion that rural America is hollowing from the inside out as population declines. “Rural areas are changing. They’re not always dying,” says Benjamin Winchester, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Winchester’s comments in Jackson County, Minnesota, are reported the Lakefield Standard, which serves southwest Minnesota.


Serious cooks may want to start digging their doomsday bunkers right now and filling it with olive oil. Mother Jones warns of a “looming olive oil apocalypse,” citing reports that the Italy’s olive harvest this year is down 35% from last year, feeding fears of higher prices. Growers blame the shortage on bad weather.

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