April 12, 2024

Placing West Virginia in the Right Category,

It comes as no surprise that federal officials don’t quite have the right words to categorize Appalachia in a way that is useful to the National Center for Education Statistics within the U.S. Department of Education. But U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is hoping to change that with a letter sent to NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr, asking her to consider adding “ruggedness scales” to the measurements used to classify school systems for purposes of allocating federal resources.

“West Virginia is the only state that lies completely within the Appalachian Mountain region. It has a higher mean elevation than any state in the east,” Manchin wrote. “Much of West Virginia, and Appalachia as a whole, continues to be miscategorized as ‘urban,’ denying opportunities to many of our most vulnerable regions.”

Manchin shared statistics such as “11.7% of the U.S. population lives in a rugged area, with 1.4% living in a highly rugged area. For comparison, West Virginia has the largest share of residents living in a rugged area, with 80.7% of the population living in a rugged area and 15% in a highly rugged area.”

Numbers come from an August 2023 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“While ruggedness alone cannot dictate rurality, we feel that it is an important consideration when determining what is rural and what is not,” Manchin wrote.

Surely Carr and the rest of the NCES will include data that lets them do a better job for students not only in West Virginia, but elsewhere. Given the attention Manchin has drawn to the report, ignoring it can only be interpreted as intentional.

By:  Editorial Board
Source: Intelligencer