Jul 19, 2018
Mara chats with Candace Williams, executive director of Rural Community Alliance (RCA), a non-profit which organizes rural communities in the state, from Delight, Arkansas, where RCA just wrapped up its annual conference. Begun in 2002, RCA was birthed after legislative efforts to consolidate smaller school districts, but has expanded into rural economic development projects within the state to try to make rural Arkansas thrive. Among the issues facing rural Arkansas are school closures, privatization of public schools, economic development implemented by rural communities, and Internet connectivity. Specifically, in regard to rural schools, there’s a shortage of teachers because of difficulties in attracting and retaining teachers—in short, the days when you “grew your own teachers” are disappearing. In addition, there are significant issues regarding transportation. One of the outcomes of the recent conference was to better enable members to come into contact with candidates for public office to increase their voice with elected officials in terms of education and economic development. For RCA, Williams notes, it’s important to have legislators actually see rural districts up close. Williams notes that in almost every rural area, the school is the “heart and soul” of the community, and losing your school district is heartbreaking for the entire community. Williams’s ultimate message: “There’s so much promise in rural Arkansas.” She urged legislators to “bring us to the table” as active participants. Learn more about RCA at thenewrural.org.