The national voice of rural school districts across the United States is now located on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Longtime Tennessee educator Allen Pratt was named executive director of the National Rural Education Association in January, and he asked UTC's School of Education to partner with the organization and house its headquarters.
Pratt is working with UTC's School of Education teaching some classes, while also traveling the country promoting and supporting rural school districts and communities at the federal and state level.
"I've visited one-room schoolhouses in Montana this year to large rural districts in Texas, as we represent a wide-range of different places," Pratt said Friday. Chattanooga is a great location for the organization, he said, as the city is surrounded by a variety of rural districts in three states.
Renee Murley, director of UTC's School of Education, said having Pratt on campus is a huge asset to the university, as he brings experience and expertise in rural education.
"We are preparing teachers and principals to go into both rural districts and urban districts, and even Hamilton County itself has rural, suburban and urban areas," Murley said.
Partnering with the association also helps boost UTC's national exposure, Murley added, providing students and faculty the chance to participate in national research and conversations centered on rural education.
"It opens up opportunities," she said.
Pratt previously worked as a teacher, principal and assistant director in Marion County Schools. He said rural school districts face a unique set of circumstances, as they can be geographically isolated and often have fewer resources.
"We do a lot with less," he said about the rural districts. "That's what we have to do."
The federal government's funding and philanthropic grants are typically focused on urban and suburban schools and districts, where they can get the biggest bang for their buck. The rural education association is focused on connecting rural districts to resources and keeping their needs at the forefront of conversation on education.