WASHINGTON—A new blog post gives a preliminary glimpse into Resources for the Future’s (RFF) ongoing multistate analysis of “boom” impacts on K-12 public education in six states that have experienced rapid expansion in the oil and gas sectors over the last decade: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Since 2015, Nathan Ratledge has been the co-principal investigator for RFF’s public education research initiative, along with RFF Senior Fellow Alan Krupnick. Now, in a new blog post, “The Impact of Shale Oil Development on Public Education in North Dakota,” Ratledge and coauthor Laura Zachary write about a recent trip to Montana and North Dakota to get “on-the-ground” feedback through interviews with teachers, staff, administrators, school board officials, and members of nonprofit organizations.
Among chief concerns discussed about schooling in energy boom regions is whether such an impact contributes to increased dropout rates—as had been observed in prior boom times, like the 1980s. However, the authors write, “Most administrators in North Dakota said they did not see a spike in high school dropout rates during the shale boom.”
Many of the school administrators felt that, in contrast to the 1980s, today’s shale development requires a higher skill set for field workers. Others referenced a newer policy that discourages hiring workers without a diploma or a GED.
Instead of dropouts, school staff cited higher concern for rapid student population growth in elementary grades. A first look at population trends corroborates the administrators’ observation of outsized enrollment in K-6.
Teachers and administrators also made the authors aware of a related issue—one that is harder to extract from the district-level data: Disruption created by “revolving door” activity throughout the year as high numbers of students change schools.
Read the blog post: The Impact of Shale Oil Development on Public Education in North Dakota.
The full report on energy-boom impacts on education in key states is expected from RFF in the fall of 2016.