Kid Shortage

Rural Alaskan Schools Endangered

As the population of rural villages in Alaska shrinks thanks to a growing number of natives moving to cities, more village schools are facing extinction, unable to enroll enough students to meet tougher state enrollment standards. Since the 1970s, when a court settlement ordered the construction of high schools in many villages, most rural Alaskans could depend on local educational institutions to teach their children. But with falling oil revenue comes a legislature hungry to cut the budget, and in 1998 a ruling came down requiring that a school must enroll 10 students to receive state funding. Four schools closed this fall, and with 30 more at risk, some schools have resorted to posting ads on Craigslist, begging families with children to move to their villages. "Schools may close, but the fact of the matter is, we're in the education business," says former state senator Gary Williken, who supported the higher enrollment standard. But many disagree: Allowing schools to close would mean "the death of the community," said Georgianna Lincoln, another former state senator.