The Politics of K-12 Education in Small Rural School Districts: The Case of Idaho

January 2015

Rural education leaders face distinctive problems that haven’t received enough attention. This paper aims to shed some light on the forces that shape the politics of Idaho’s small, rural school districts—and almost certainly of similar districts in other states. Based on interviews in six Idaho communities and three in surrounding states, authors Sperry and Hill identify the issues that arise and must be resolved politically in small rural districts, who is normally on which side, and how the superintendent and other leaders seek support and form coalitions. They also focused on the superintendent’s role, both in the politics of the locality and as leader of the school district. While the small size of the sample and limited number of interviews marks this as a preliminary study, the consistency of the findings suggests some important truths about rural education politics and leadership. The authors conclude with suggestions for how a larger and more formal study could be done. Read the full paper.