Biddle speaks with Maine Public about struggles rural schools face

Catharine Biddle, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Maine, was interviewed by Maine Public for the report, “As tax bases erode, rural schools struggle to meet students’ basic needs.” One reason Maine educators say they need more funding is that they are taking on responsibilities they have never had before, such as providing extra food, medical services and even washers and dryers to clean students’ clothes, according to the report. Rural Maine schools need the most help, but often lack the tax base to pay for it, the report states. “A lot of schools are thinking about this from the perspective of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” said Biddle, referring to the motivational theory of psychologist Abraham Maslow, who created a hierarchy of basic human needs. “Kids can’t be hungry or they won’t be able to learn. When the community is meeting fewer of those needs, the school has to do more.” However, Biddle said finding money to support these efforts is often most difficult in communities that are losing jobs and people, and when a community loses tax revenue and students, the schools often have less money to help. “I think that’s the fundamental paradox in Maine,” she said. “When you have economic decline, you have a tax base that’s eroded, which increases in poverty, in need for all families and residents; not just for young people. And the ability to then take on the burden of school funding, and the increased need for schools to get funding, becomes really challenging.” The Bangor Daily News also carried the Maine Public report.