SPARKMAN, Ark. – The tiny Arkansas town of Sparkman has been dying for decades. It's lost more than half of its population since 1950. It has virtually no jobs. And its lone school is on the brink of closing.
Now the community is trying to save itself by tapping into the economic-development potential of its most precious resource: its children.
Parents and teachers have launched a scholarship program that aims to draw new families to town to keep the school system alive, along with their once-thriving timber community 90 miles southwest of Little Rock.
Other districts have waged similar campaigns. But Sparkman's efforts and those of other Arkansas towns have taken the practice to a new level, with communities practically competing for each other's children and the state revenue that comes with them.
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