“If this decision is not reversed,” Ms. Collins wrote, “the department risks denying thousands of students living in rural Maine the chance to reach their full potentials.”
Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, wrote that 220 of his state’s most remote, impoverished school districts would take a $400,000 cut from the change.
“The department should be focusing on elevating school districts with the fewest resources instead of punishing small schools with harmful, last-minute policy changes,” Mr. Tester wrote.
Rural school districts, which serve nearly one in seven public-school students, have long included the most underfunded and ignored schools in the country, advocates say.
In its latest report, “Why Rural Matters,” the Rural School and Community Trust found that many districts “face nothing less than an emergency.” Nearly one in six students living in rural areas lives below the poverty line, one in seven qualifies for special education services, and one in nine has changed residence in the previous 12 months, the report said.
“Many rural students are largely invisible to state policymakers because they live in states where education policy is dominated by highly visible urban problems,” the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group concluded.
Advocates were hoping that would change with President Trump.
“Rural education advocates definitely hoped that a president elected, in part, because of rural and small-town voters would pay more attention to rural children,” said Alan Richard, a board member of the Rural School and Community Trust. “Even after the last election, with all the attention to rural America, little has been done to correct the inequity so many rural students face.”