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Rural School Aid awarded to local districts

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School

  • Vibrant foliage rises behind the Mohawk Trail Regional High School as the field hockey team plays against Smith Academy Wednesday October 26. Matt Burkhartt

  • Superintendent Michael Buoniconti at Mohawk Trail Regional School on Wednesday. Recorder Staff/Diane Broncaccio

  • Photo Caption:  Sen. Adam Hinds discusses this year’s Rural School Aid.  Behind him, from left, are:  Rep. Stephen Kulik (D- Worthington), Rep. Paul Mark (D- Peru), Berkshire Superintendent Laurie Casna, Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley, and Mohawk Trail Superintendent Michael Buoniconti. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Sen. Adam Hinds’ Office—



Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 06, 2018

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.

“Rural school districts face the same fixed costs as school districts throughout Massachusetts, but these costs become more difficult to manage with a declining population and the need to regionalize over large geographic areas,” said state Rep. Paul W. Mark, who also worked to establish the aid program. “Rural School Aid is intended to help level the playing field for these school districts where need is great and resources are scarce,” he said.

“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.

But those schools with fewer than 11 students per square mile must also submit a plan to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) by Feb. 1, outlining steps the district will take to increase regional collaboration, consolidation or other efficiencies over the next three fiscal years.

The Mohawk, Pioneer, and Mahar districts all have fewer than 11 students per mile, living in school district member towns.

For years, school and town officials have been saying that the economies of scale make education more costly in rural areas, where school bus transportation and per-pupil spending is highest.

At a public forum, hosted by Hinds at the Mohawk Trail Regional School last spring, Hinds pointed out that 54 rural school districts in Massachusetts had lost a combined 4,000 students over the past 10 years, but that per-pupil spending costs in rural districts average $18,678 per student, compared to $16,692 per student in non-rural districts. Also, rural districts spend 50 percent more per-pupil on transportation costs than non-rural districts.