Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Vol. 2 No. 1 (2018): Vol. 2

Opportunity outside the City: Understanding and Promoting Equity in Rural Schools

  • Douglas Gagnon
February 14, 2023


Recent times have not always been kind to rural places. A persistent decline in
manufacturing and agricultural sectors has hallowed out the economic base of many rural towns,
leaving diminished prospects and casting a cloud of poverty over large swaths of the rural
landscape. A divergent recovery from the Great Recession, during which gains were made but
not evenly so across place or economic strata, has in some ways obscured this fact. The reality is
that politics, power, and populations increasingly reside in metropolitan centers, and many rural
dwellers are at risk of being left behind in tomorrow’s society. Few things could underscore this
point more than our nation’s recent election, an unprecedented event in which working class
voters made clear that concerns about limited opportunity outside the city must be taken
But in many ways, these voters have been sold a bill of goods. Those who yearn for a
return to the good old days, where 20th Century jobs will allow 21st Century rural communities to
prosper, are likely to remain yearning: returns to education are now higher than ever, while the
industries that used to support rural areas are forecasted to decline over the next decade. The
true chance for rural places to thrive once again lies more in innovation and adaptation than it
does in a revisiting old stomping grounds. Standing at the nexus of rural children and their
opportunities for future success lies public education.