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March/April 2000

Inside This Issue:

 

Center-Sponsored Projects Linked By Common Thread
What do an arts-in-education initiative for elementary and secondary school students, an innovative wastewater treatment system, a self-help infrastructure program, and a marketing program for local farmers all have in common? They are all community-based projects benefiting rural Pennsylvanians and receiving support from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania as part of its Rural Initiatives Program.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors authorized the Rural Initiatives Program several years ago to provide limited financial support to locally driven projects that focus on innovative and timely results. Over the years, Center-supported initiatives have been as diverse as a multi-state distance learning consortium, and a federal, state and local collaboration for heritage tourism. No matter how diverse the projects are, however, they all have that one common thread - the potential to deliver benefits to rural residents.

Following is a sample of some of the more recent Center-sponsored initiatives.

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A Museum in the Classroom
It has been well documented that the study of the arts increases a student’s communication and literacy skills and enhances a student’s critical thinking and problem solving abilities. However, for some rural schools, funds to support arts education are either severely limited or non-existent.

Enter the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, which is that region’s only institution with an arts outreach program for schools. Through local partnerships with area school districts, the Museum has been able to offer an arts enrichment program to students that brings art from the Museum directly into the schools.

Center for Rural Pennsylvania funding during 1998 and 1999 enabled the Museum to use a staff education director and technology to expand its proven track record with even more rural schools.

The Bringing the Museum into the Classroom prototype proved that art education, via distance learning, could effectively increase arts awareness among students. Through video conferencing technology, provided by private sector and higher education sponsors, students in the 5th grade and in 7th through 12th grades learned more about art, history, aesthetics, criticism, and culture by discussing the Museum’s exhibits. The program generated a multifaceted educational experience that became an educational adventure through the Museum. Instructors and students received program packets before the teleconference and then participated in the pro-gram during the interactive lesson.

For more information on the museum’s Arts-In-Education Program, call (814) 472-3920 or visit the museum website at www.sama-sfc.org.

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Wastewater Treatment System For All Areas
Large areas of rural Pennsylvania do not have central sewage systems and are not suited for conventional on-lot septic systems or mound systems. In 1997, the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association (PREA) received the support of the Center or Rural Pennsylvania and others to help it test and monitor a wastewater system that could be used in these areas, and virtually anywhere in the state. PREA kicked off its Rural Wastewater Initiative to develop and test an on-site system that would safely treat household wastewater in rural areas of the state at a reasonable cost. Following the installation of the system at three pilot sites, and extensive monitoring, testing, and evaluation procedures, the partners in this project eagerly await state approval as an alternate wastewater treatment system.

According to PREA’s Director of Public Affairs Russ Biggica, PREA wasn’t looking for a system that could replace or compete with other systems. Instead, it was looking for a system that could provide an option in areas where soil characteristics or other conditions make the land unsuitable for conventional systems.

"PREA was approaching this initiative as a way to address quality of life issues in rural areas," he says.

Each of the pilot sites has been closely monitored by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and, according to Biggica, are meeting expectations. "We are optimistic that the system will be approved soon by DEP in both the small flows and alternative categories," Biggica says.

After the system is approved, PREA plans to develop a full business plan on inspecting and maintaining the systems during and after installation, and to create a certification and maintenance education program for installers.

For more information on the Rural Wastewater Initiative, contact Russ Biggica, PREA, 212 Locust St., Harrisburg, PA 17101, telephone (717) 233-5704.

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PENNSTEP - Communities Helping Themselves
In Pennsylvania’s rural areas, necessity and grassroots ingenuity are coming together to provide affordable solutions to drinking water and wastewater management problems.

In 1998, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Pennsylvania Rural Development Council joined forces to introduce the Pennsylvania Small Town Environmental Program (PENNSTEP). Through PENNSTEP, small communities develop their own solutions to their water and wastewater needs.

PENNSTEP was fashioned after a program developed by the Rensselaerville Institute (TRI) of Rensselaerville, NY. Assistance from TRI and the self-help approach have helped communities in 17 states reduce their water and wastewater installation project costs from 30 to 70 percent.

PENNSTEP can help communities that may not be in a financial position to take advantage of more traditional state loan programs. It may also help communities that would not be able to increase user fees to cover loan payments because of the limited income levels of many of their residents. This is where the self-help concept of PENNSTEP comes into play.

TRI staff provide technical assistance to the community in locating local, state or donated equipment and materials, and in drawing together volunteer labor to complete the project. TRI encourages the local community to act as the "general contractor" and helps the community to choose the most simple and economical technology for the project.

Communities interested in the program must also meet several criteria to demonstrate their compatibility with the program.

According to Kevin Karmosky, DEP Sanitary Program Specialist, the community must have the resources and the potential to make the self-help program work for it because the program involves a flexible process whose success depends on the commitment of the community.

For more information about PENN STEP, contact Kevin Karmosky, DEP Sanitary Program Specialist, Bureau of Water Supply Management, PO Box 8467, 11th Floor, Rachel Carson State Office Building, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8467, telephone (717) 787-0122, email:karmosky.kevin@a1.dep.state.pa.us.

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Not Your Typical Marketplace
Should a marketplace offer more than just locally grown produce, meats, bakery products and other locally produced goods? Should it offer continued agricultural viability at the local level? Or economic development for local communities? How about new opportunities for new farmers and local consumers?

To the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, or PASA, a local marketplace can offer all of those things and more. That’s why PASA, a nonprofit organization that promotes healthy food for all people and respect of the natural environment, is working to establish the CommunityFARM Cooperative Marketplace in southwestern Pennsylvania, as part of its Community FARM Initiative. The initiative consists of a number of projects that aim to strengthen regional farming and agricultural development by improving marketing opportunities and increasing community awareness of local sustainable agriculture.

With support from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, PASA is developing a business plan for the CommunityFARM Cooperative Marketplace.

According to Kristin Markley, PASA’s community food systems coordinator, the CommunityFARM Marketplace is envisioned to be more than just a seasonal farmers’ market, like those you see in parking lots in your community, or a public market, like the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. Instead, it will be a year-around, community-based facility that will provide continued marketing opportunities for producers while increasing consumer access to goods produced by Pennsylvania farmers.

PASA has already completed feasibility studies for the Marketplace and has examined how similar markets function in other states. The business plan will include a market analysis, a parking analysis, an architectural review of the selected site, financial details, and recommendations for organizational structure.

For more information about the Marketplace or the Community-FARM Initiative, contact PASA, PO Box 419, Millheim, PA 16854, telephone (814) 349-9856.

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Message from the Chairman
Hopefully, as you are reading this edition of Rural Perspectives, the final signs of winter are disappearing. Farmers are eager to begin the planting season. Little leaguers are getting ready to take to the field and, in state government, we have started deliberations on the state’s 2000-2001 fiscal budget.

Look for highlights of the Governor’s budget proposal on page 5. Funding for initiatives that will affect rural Pennsylvania are noted. As we discuss the budget for the coming year, it is important to hear from our constituents on rural needs and opportunities.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s annual appropriation supports its policy and demonstration research efforts and helps to maintain a comprehensive database on rural trends and conditions. In this issue, we are highlighting several sponsored projects that are having a direct impact on quality of life issues for rural Pennsylvanians. In each example, local citizens are the agents of change and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania is providing some needed capital to support their work. We are confident that these pilot projects hold considerable promise for success and impact.

Our rural database is often used to identify problem areas or issues for action. Recent data obtained from the Department of Health, and analyzed by Center staff, show positive change in an issue of importance to the entire state. Over a four-year period, from 1993 to 1997, teenage pregnancies for rural females age 18 and under declined 20 percent. The number of reported urban pregnancies for that same age group and time period declined by 26 percent. The article on page 5 provides more information.

Spring is also the time of year for annual conferences. Our conference calendar contains information on several significant ones. The state associations for boroughs and townships will convene their respective memberships in early spring. Practitioners and advocates for farming, historic preservation, and health will also meet at the national level over the next several months. In a mark your calendar note, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania will be sponsoring a conference in the spring of 2001 with details to follow in future editions of Rural Perspectives.

I would like to welcome the Center’s newest Board member, Dr. Robert F. Pack, of the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Pack replaces Dr. George Board, who served as the University of Pittsburgh’s representative for 10 years.

I hope you catch the Spring fever and renew your commitments on behalf of rural Pennsylvania. If the Center for Rural Pennsylvania can be of assistance to you, we welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

Representative Sheila Miller

Chairman

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Center Welcomes Newest Board Member
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania welcomes Dr. Robert F. Pack of the University of Pittsburgh to its Board of Directors.

Dr. Pack is Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from West Virginia University, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in English from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Pack held a series of faculty and staff positions at Rutgers University in New Jersey before returning to the University of Pittsburgh in 1993. As Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management at the university, Dr. Pack is responsible for academic planning, budgeting, capital planning, information technology, the regional campuses, and the University’s library system.

Dr. Pack is also vice chairman of the board of trustees for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and a board member of the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and the Three Rivers Regatta.

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Improving Employment Opportunities for High School Students with Mild Disabilities
Suggestions on how rural high schools might better prepare students with mild disabilities for employment after graduation are the focus of the latest report issued by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

The report is based on a one-year pilot study, conducted by Dr. Kent Jackson of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), as part of a Center-sponsored grant project.

Jackson, his team of researchers and four Indiana County agencies, including the Department of Special Education and Clinical Services at IUP, ICW Employment Services of Indiana County, ARIN Intermediate Unit #28 and Indiana County Vo-Tech, developed a four-tier program for rural high school seniors diagnosed as "learning disabled." The program helped prepare the students for employment by offering job preparation instruction, job shadowing opportunities, job coaching oversight, and paid internships. Ten students participated in the five-month program.

The report provides information on the goals and objectives of the grant project, how the pilot program was conducted, and the pilot results. The overall results suggested that the students, who typically would have had difficulty adjusting to the workplace, were better prepared to face work challenges because of the job support offered through the program.

In his report, Jackson also provides recommendations on how the project might be replicated in other rural areas. He further provides recommendations for state officials, educators and administrators on how they might better prepare students, who are diagnosed as mildly disabled, for employment after high school graduation.

For a copy of the report, The Improvement of Employment Opportunities for Students with Disabilities Upon High School Graduation in Rural Settings, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email at info@ruralpa.org.

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Analysis Shows Decline in Rural Teen Pregnancies
The number of rural teenage pregnancies is declining, according to the most recent data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. From 1993 to 1997, the number of reported teen pregnancies for rural women 18 years old and younger declined 20 percent. The number of reported teen pregnancies in urban areas also declined during this same period by 26 percent.

More specifically, the rural teen pregnancy rate in 1997 was almost 11 out of every 1,000 females between the ages of 12 and 17. In 1993, the teen pregnancy rate was 15 out of every 1,000 rural females. Comparatively, the urban teenage pregnancy rate in 1997 was almost 19 out of every 1,000 females, and in 1993, the rate was over 26 out of every 1,000 females.

The declines in both rural and urban teenage pregnancies mirror the national trend. Using a slightly different calculation, from the time period of 1992 to 1996, the number of teenage pregnancies for every 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19 declined 13 percent. Pennsylvania had the eighth largest decline in the nation.

Among rural teens who became pregnant, most chose to have the baby. An analysis of the total number of reported teenage pregnancies between 1993 and 1997, shows that 80 percent of the rural pregnancies resulted in live births and about 19 percent were ended by induced abortions. In urban areas, less than 65 percent of teen pregnancies resulted in live births and almost 35 percent ended through induced abortions. In both rural and urban areas, about 1 percent of the teen pregnancies ended in fetal death or miscarriage.

These percentages are different for older females. In rural areas, about 90 percent of the reported pregnancies to women aged 18 years or older resulted in live births and 9 percent resulted in induced abortions. In urban areas, nearly 78 percent of pregnancies to women in that same age group resulted in live births and nearly 22 percent resulted in induced abortion. Miscarriages accounted for about 1 percent of pregnancy outcomes in both rural and urban areas.

The decline in teenage pregnancies is good news to both rural and urban policymakers. Historically, teenagers who become pregnant are at the highest risk for living below the poverty level and not finishing high school.

The declines in teen pregnancies, however, might be short-lived. One reason is that the decline in teen pregnancy rates is demographically driven. Currently, the number of teenagers living in rural areas is lower than it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Over the next five to 10 years, the number of teens is expected to increase, which may have an impact on the teenage pregnancy rate.

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Gov's Budget Highlights
On February 8, Governor Tom Ridge presented his 2000-2001 budget request to the General Assembly. This $19.6 billion spending plan includes some initiatives that would benefit Pennsylvania’s rural and small towns. Many of the more notable initiatives are highlighted below:

Tourism: Almost $38.5 million for tourism development. Almost 45 percent of this money will go directly to locally based tourism promotion agencies.

Landuse: $3.6 million has been requested for local landuse and planning assistance to support the Gov.’s "Growing Smarter" plan. Most of this money will be earmarked for local government grants for landuse planning.

Education: More than $6.6 billion for education with more than 55 percent earmarked for school districts for basic education subsidies. Other education initiatives include $4.8 million for information and technology improvements; $20 million to help poorly performing schools; and nearly $62.3 million to improve local libraries.

Public Safety: $15 million to help volunteer fire companies purchase firefighting equipment or upgrade their fire stations. More than $158.6 million has been requested for the Pennsylvania State Police.

Health Care: With revenues from the tobacco settlement, the Gov. proposes to provide additional investments in the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and to purchase health care insurance for low-income adults. The money may also be used to pay hospitals for health care services for which they have not been compensated.

The proposed budget is being reviewed by the General Assembly, and may be revised and voted on in the coming weeks. To read the Governor's budget address or for more information on the budget, visit Pennsylvania's website at www.state.pa.us.

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Assessing Internet Accessibility
Do rural Internet customers have the same access to the Internet as urban customers? That’s a difficult question to answer with a simple "yes" or "no," but a list of Internet Service Providers included in the Pennsylvania Technology Atlas may offer some insight into the level of rural accessibility and service.

An Internet Service Provider, or ISP, offers software, a username, a password, and a phone number to paid subscribers so that they can access the Internet and send and receive email via telephone lines or cable.

According to the 1999 edition of the Pennsylvania Technology Atlas, published by the state Office of Information Technology, the Commonwealth is home to more than 200 ISPs; however, only 92 of these providers are physically located within the Commonwealth. Of the 92 ISPs located in Pennsylvania, 16 are located in counties that are considered rural. The remaining 78 ISPs are located in counties that are considered urban. Only two urban counties had no county-based ISPs, while 31 rural counties had no county-based providers. It is important to point out that these numbers do not include national providers such as America Online, or non-profit organizations such as universities.

Regionally, the southeastern area of the state is home to the most ISPs, coming in at a count of 30. All of those are located in just five southeastern counties. The northern part of the state is home to only three ISPs.

Splitting the state in half, the analysis found 38 ISPs located in the western part of the state and 54 located in the eastern part.

On a per capita basis, there is one ISP for every 159,235 residents living in a rural area. In urban areas, there is one ISP for every 121,188 residents. Regionally, the north central part of the state had the lowest per capita rate of ISPs with one for every 103,161 residents.

While rural areas do not have access to the same number of ISPs as urban areas, rural residents are capable of accessing the Internet and most are just a local phone call away from access.

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Did You Know . . .

* In an average rural community, about 65 percent of registered voters vote during an election for state legislators.

* Pennsylvania ranks in the top 5 nationwide for apple, peach, pear and grape production.

* Lancaster, York and Berks counties have the highest number of farms in the state with 6,015 farms; 2,240 farms; and 1,105 farms, respectively.

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Just the Facts: Shopping in a Small Town
Shopping in small town Pennsylvania once meant opening the mail order catalog or visiting the "company" store. In the late 20th Century, however, shopping in a small town most probably meant visiting the nearest discount department store. Once again, the option may begin to change as we enter the 21st Century.

While the number of rural retail stores grew during the later half of the 20th Century, these stores started to close their doors at the end of the Century. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 1992 to 1997, the number of discount department stores in non-metropolitan, or rural, areas declined nearly 20 percent. Discount department stores in metropolitan, or urban, areas also declined 5 percent.

According to the Census Bureau, there were 318 discount department stores in Pennsylvania in 1997. These stores included local, regional, and national chain department stores that sold items for less than conventional prices. About one in five of these stores was located in rural areas.

The average sales of rural discount department stores in 1997 were over $14.2 million. Between 1992 and 1997, average sales increased nearly 35 percent. In urban areas, the average discount department store sales were in excess of $17.4 million in 1997. These stores had seen their sales increase almost 30 percent from 1992 to 1997.

Rural residents spent roughly $50 more per person at discount department stores than urban residents. In 1997, the average person in rural areas spent $483 a year and the average person in urban areas spent approximately $430 a year.

On average, there is one discount department store for every 30,000 residents in rural areas and one for every 40,000 residents in urban areas.

While the number of discount department stores increased in the 1970s and 1980s, during the 1990s, there was a notable decline. The decrease in the number of discount department stores may be attributed to many factors, including the growth in e-commerce, home-shopping networks, and home catalog sales.

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