Squeezed by declining enrollment, Arizona’s rural schools are suffering

Lily Altavena :

The schools, specks on the map, are monuments to Arizona’s history.

Inside sits Arizona’s future.

But in most of Arizona’s rural counties, the public school systems are increasingly strained. The education funding crisis in Arizona schools highlighted by last year’s #RedForEd teacher protests is compounded in rural schools.

Ten Arizona counties, encompassing many of the state’s rural areas, have together lost more than 10,000 students in the past decade while Maricopa County’s student population has risen by more than 70,000, according to enrollment data.

Fewer students means less money for schools, limiting students’ educational opportunities and making it more difficult to recruit and pay qualified teachers. And unlike in suburban districts, rural communities can’t easily offset state funding losses with local taxes.