After getting tipped off about a new U.S. Department of Education Report, “Status of Education in Rural America,” I did my customary search for mentions of Oklahoma before embarking on reading the entire report.
Interestingly, although the report doesn’t single out Oklahoma, and only mentions that state in lists with the other 50 (and the District of Columbia), Oklahoma largely stands alone in its proportion of city, rural, town and suburban students. Data are from 2003-04, which is a typical lag time for federal statistics to wind up in reports.
Oklahoma is in the low-middle in its percentage of city students. In terms of suburban students, its percentage is fairly low, although there’s a lot of spread. Its percentage of students in towns is fairly high, comparatively speaking, and its percentage of rural students
Admittedly, the definitions are complicated, but what the numbers show, to me, is clear. Although North Carolina comes fairly close overall, and Tennessee isn’t too far off, Oklahoma has fewer city, suburban and rural students than many southern states yet more students in towns.
According to the report’s appendices, a town is considered a territory inside an urban cluster (although not near a city of 100,000 or more) that is 10 to 35 miles from an urbanized area.
So, what does all this mean?
Oklahoma has a number of small, yet not too small, towns and hundreds of school districts. Although rural Oklahoma (by my definition, not the report’s) has lost people for years, it’s still educating a lot of kids and is perhaps healthier, from the perspective of school enrollment, than most other southern states.
But I could be wrong. That’s just my two cents.