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Equity and Opportunity in Rural California - Joe Ross, 2022 CCBE President
Let’s talk about rural California.
The agricultural economy in our state generates around $50B annually in GDP — which happens to be roughly on par with the economic output of Hollywood films. So California is not just for making movies. It’s not just a destination for tourism and recreation. It’s where over a third of the country's vegetables and two-thirds of the country's fruits and nuts are grown.
This economic feat arises from surprisingly few. Rural California is home to just six percent of our population and three percent of the state’s K12 students.
Three percent may sound small. But California is big. So we’re talking about roughly half a million children. And each of them matters.
So, let’s get rural:
Many rural students have limited access to Internet. (That’s why a school district in Tulare County installed Wifi towers to enable students to bring the Internet home after school.)
Over 60% of students in some rural communities suffer chronic absenteeism. (That’s compared to 11% statewide.)
And college readiness, as measured by A-G completion, is lower in rural places than in suburban and urban places. In the communities situated between Stanford University and San Francisco, for example, A-G completion rates overall are over 60% overall. (The number is alarmingly lower for many of the subgroups tracked on the balanced score card.)
Meanwhile, the A-G completion rate in some rural communities is in the single digits.
We obviously cannot overlook these students. When we talk about equity, in particular, we need to include in the conversation the needs of underserved rural students, and we need to focus on the particular challenges faced by rural schools.
This is why this year’s CCBE annual conference in September will feature a new track: “Equity and Opportunity in Rural California.”
County board members know this is more of a universal topic than many people think. Some of the most urbanized counties in California also include rural communities. According to the University of California, one fifth of the rural population in California lives in counties that are less than 50% rural overall. Think of counties such as Tehama, Colusa, Tuolumne, Mendocino, Lake, Glenn, Nevada, Inyo, El Dorado, Madera, Del Norte, Shasta, Humboldt, and Yuba.
And almost one third of California’s rural population lives in counties that are 90% urban.
But there are a lot of counties are predominantly or entirely rural, including Alpine, Mariposa, Sierra, Trinity, Plumas, Calaveras, Modoc, Siskiyou, Amador, Lassen, and Mono.
CCBE is especially well positioned to focus on all things rural. Why? Each of the 58 counties has one vote in the governance of CCBE. This gives voice to the 45 rural or partially rural counties outside of the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Southern California. Meanwhile, across all places -- urban, suburban, and rural -- CCBE sustains its voice for the constituency of children that all counties serve: court and community students, special education students, and foster youth.
We know that the inclusion of rural students in our equity conversations does not mean trying to equate the experience of one group or another. Race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status: these are all different things, with their own unique dynamics.
Notably, however, these things have in common one thing: persistently they intertwine with place. Where we grow up has a lot to do with where we go in life.
So let’s approach equity with a broadly inclusive mindset: each student, no matter their zip code, deserves the same full bounty of access and opportunity in California.
County board members are more than ready to lead this conversation.
The Union Democrat: Tuolumne County schools office recognized for model attendance plan during pandemic - The Union Democrat ׀ April 21, 2021
A division of the Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools Office dedicated to promoting school attendance was honored this week by State Superintendent Tony Thurmond as a model program during the pandemic. The School Attendance Review Board (SARB) for the county office, led by Program Director Rob Egger, was the only county schools office recognized this year. It was among 20 total SARBs honored, with the rest being from individual school districts. “Many of the supports and services provided by the SARB program have been invaluable to families during these trying times,” Egger said in a news release from the Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools Office. "Our goal is to remove barriers and provide access to education for students who are struggling with school attendance issues.”
According to the state education website, SARBs are composed of representatives from youth agencies involved at the district or county level. Due to California compulsory education laws which mandate attendance in school, the SARBs assist in solving truancy issues with students or parents though available school or community resources. According to a news release from Thurmond's office, the model programs were distinguished this year by their attendance strategies during distance learning and the COVID-19 pandemic. The criteria for the awards included shifting staff roles to meet student needs in distance learning, supporting the unique needs of students in distance learning, providing for mental health services and outreach to families. Read More