National Rural Education Association Official Podcast

S03E08- Policy and Practice in Rural Education, an interview with Julia Cunningham – Director of Rural Engagement, US Department of Education.

Episode Summary

We discuss the federal role in rural education. Ms. Cunningham shared the need for dialog between rural education and the need for addressing problems on the ground. We discussed with Ms. Cunningham how she utilizes her experience as a teacher to help inform policy-making in Washington. She shared with us that we should think widely when considering who is a stakeholder. When policy decisions are made, they typically have wider reaching influence on those we may not think of when developing federal policy. Ultimately, our success as a country is dependent on what experiences students have in the classroom. Moreover, she has discussed how teachers’ shortage and salary issues are obvious problems, but there are other issues that should be addressed as a nation. This includes thinking about training and mental health for teachers. She also shares that education is more holistic than previously thought. With all the changes in the landscape, we should address the new speed bumps experienced by teachers and administrators to help make schools successful and competent teachers employed. Further, she discusses how changes in political administrations should not hinder work in rural schools. She suggests there should always be a consistent, proactive voice for rural education at the US Department of Education (USDOE). Ms. Cunningham has only been on the job for three months but has served as an advocate for rural education. This episode shares some of her energy and experience she brings to the USDOE. This episode is sponsored by mycredential

Episode Notes

Julia Cunningham – Director of Rural Engagement, US Department of Education.

Most recently, Julia was the Deputy Director for State Engagement for The Hunt Institute. In this role, she primarily focused on overseeing relationship building, strategy, and program development in support of The Institute’s expansion into new states through the state legislators' retreat model. Prior to joining The Hunt Institute, Julia was a fifth – eighth-grade Writing teacher at American Horse School in the Oglala Lakota Nation in southwestern South Dakota. After teaching, she earned her Master’s in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2018, where she co-founded the Harvard Ed School Rural Educators Alliance. Julia earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Fordham University in 2013.