DALTON – State Sen. Adam G. Hinds and state education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley announced that 33 rural school districts will receive part of a new $1.5 million appropriation to help cash-strapped rural schools in sparsely populated communities.
In Franklin County, the largest aid sums went to Ralph C. Mahar, Mohawk Trail and Pioneer Valley regional school districts. Mahar will receive $183,774; Mohawk will gain $132,932; and Pioneer will be awarded $92,593.
Other local school systems to benefit include: Hawlemont ($23,096), New Salem-Wendell ($21,657), Rowe ($3,913), Orange ($51,458), Sunderland ($4,840) and Erving ($4,153).
“We cannot allow our commitment to students – ensuring their access to equal educational opportunities across the state – to be undermined by where they live,” said Hinds. “This is a deliberate effort to confront the unique challenges our rural schools face.”
The largest award, of $246,056, went to the Central Berkshire Regional School District, which serves seven towns in Berkshire and Hampshire county towns.
“The introduction of Rural School Aid in the Massachusetts budget reflects a critical beginning to our collective rural voice being heard and supported by the educational and political leadership of our state,” said Michael Buoniconti, Mohawk/Hawlemont superintendent. He is also chairman of the Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition, which lobbied for the new form of school aid to rural towns. “The Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition lood to continued partnering with these leaders as we strive to ensure quality education for our rural students.”
School districts that qualify for Rural School Aid have fewer than 21 students per square mile in communities where the average per-capita income is not greater than the statewide income average. School districts with less than 11 students per square mile and incomes of no more than the state average per capita income qualify for the largest amount of aid.