There are 1,300 charter schools in rural and township areas nationwide. Exactly zero of them are in Missouri, and that’s a problem. There are plenty of examples of charter schools serving rural areas very effectively. A recent article from the 74 Million highlights the story of a charter school serving rural, low-income students in Gaston, North Carolina.
KIPP Gaston College Prep opened in 2005. Six years after graduation, 61 percent of graduates from the 2009 class had earned college degrees. The degree-earning rate after six years was 48 percent for the class of 2010, and 62 percent for the class of 2011. The graduating class sizes are small, with 48 graduates in 2009 and 568 alumni so far, but the early returns are very encouraging. These rates are impressive considering only 11 percent of children raised in the lowest-income quartile (annual family income of $37,564 or less) earn bachelor’s degrees within six years. Gaston KIPP families mostly fall toward the bottom end of that lowest quartile.
In the 2016–17 school year, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that over 225,600 Missouri students that attended a public school in a rural or township area qualified for free and reduced-price lunch (representative of a low family income but not necessarily the lowest income quartile)—roughly a quarter of all Missouri public school students. As the achievement gap between high- and low-income students persists, successful efforts to support rural, low-income students should be encouraged.
KIPP Gaston College Prep is just one example of how educational choice can benefit students beyond urban areas. Isn’t it time Missouri expands charter schools to better serve its low-income, rural students?