Rural Education

Just over half of AASA members are in rural school districts and nearly eight million children reside in rural areas. Rural schools face unique challenges while providing a high-quality public education. On Capitol Hill, AASA is active in advocating on the behalf of rural schools through partnerships and in cooperation with rural school system leaders.

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  • REAP: The Rural Education Achievement Program, under Title VI, Part B under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, represents the first time that the federal government has provided a consistent stream of funding dedicated to meeting the needs of rural schools. AASA, through the input and guidance of its membership and Congressional leaders, was responsible for the creation of REAP.
  • Urban and Rural Healthy Schools Coalition: The AASA Urban and Rural Healthy Schools Coalition is comprised of small rural school districts ranging in size from fewer than 300 to more than 5000 students as well as urban school districts.
  • The National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition was created by state and national education organizations with a focus on the provision and maintenance of quality learning opportunities for the children in the public schools of rural America.
  • AASA completed a study of rural school administrators with regard to recruiting and retaining teachers and complying with the teacher quality requirements of No Child Left Behind in cooperation with AEL Inc., called "How Are Rural School Districts Meeting the Teacher Quality Requirements of No Child Left Behind?". (PDF, December 2003)
  • "AEL Policy Brief on Rural Teacher Recruitment and Retention" (PDF, December 2003)

REAP

The Rural Education Achievement Program, under Title VI, Part B under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, represents the first time that the federal government has provided a consistent stream of funding dedicated to meeting the needs of rural schools. AASA, through the input and guidance of its membership and Congressional leaders, was responsible for the creation of REAP. REAP is divided into two sub-programs, directly addressing the variety of challenges faced by rural schools.

Small and Rural Schools Achievement Program:
This program aids those districts that have traditionally received a smaller percentage of federal dollars because they lack the staff to apply for competitive grants. In addition, these districts have been hampered by the small amounts of money they receive under each of the formula programs, and their traditionally restricted use. This program allows them to overcome both problems by presenting them a supplemental grant and providing 100 percent flexibility among their federal formula dollars.

Rural and Low Income Schools Program:
This program allows for a supplemental grant to flow to high-poverty, rural school districts recognizing the unique challenges they might face and the extra resources needed to overcome the challenges of being rural and having high levels of poverty. Districts eligible under this program are subject to the parameters that are set up by their state education agencies for distribution of the dollars. However, once the money is received, districts should begin to use the new resources to increase student achievement within their district.

 

 

REAP Reauthorization

In September 2007, Sens. Conrad (D-N.D.) and Collins (R-Maine) and Reps. Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Kuhl (R-N.Y.) introduced the Rural Education Achievement Program Reauthorization Act, S 2051 and HR 3545, respectively. These stand-alone bills would make the necessary changes to improve REAP and ensure that school districts are accurately identified to participate in the program.

  • The first proposed change is the transition to new locale codes. Currently, eligibility for the Small and Rural Schools Achievement Program is restricted to school districts located within locale codes 7 and 8, the rural designations. These codes will transition to 41, 42 and 43 (rural fringe, rural distant and rural remote) under the new system and include 32 and 33 (remote town and distant town). District eligibility under the new codes should be similar to current law, although there is no way to ensure an absolute match between old and new locale codes.
  • Under current law, districts eligible for both programs are automatically enrolled under the Small and Rural Schools Achievement Program. In some cases, some schools eligible for the Small and Rural Schools Achievement Program do not receive a financial award due to their current levels of federal funding. The second proposed change would allow schools who are eligible for both programs but not receiving additional funding under Small and Rural Schools Achievement Program to apply under the Rural and Low-Income Schools Program, a change that will affect approximately 200 school districts across the country.
  • Another proposed change switches the eligibility poverty measure from 20 percent Census poverty to 40 percent free and reduced-price lunch for those districts under the Rural and Low-Income Schools Program. Census poverty data is an inaccurate measure of poverty for school districts, especially in areas where district borders are not contiguous with county borders and in areas with populations less than 20,000 people, the size of communities REAP seeks to target.
  • The last change in REAP Reauthorization is a shift in the sliding formula from the current $20,000 to $60,000 to a new scale of $25,000 to $80,000. This shift would acknowledge changing costs since the program's initial introduction. This change in the program is predicated on REAP funding reaching the $200 million mark.

AASA Action: AASA is working with the U.S. Department of Education on the implementation of REAP and continues to work for increased funding of the program.

 

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Forest Counties

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination act of 2000 (SRS) (PL 106-393) — referred to as Forest Counties — was enacted to provide transitional assistance to rural counties affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests in federal lands.

Traditionally, these counties relied on a share of receipts from timber harvests to supplement local funding for school systems and roads. Funding from SRS has been used to support more than 4,400 rural schools.

AASA recognizes the challenges of school districts located in federal forest counties and urges the continuation of the safety-net legislation that ensures a consistent funding pattern to these school systems.

In October 2008, Congress included a four-year reauthorization of the Forest Counties program in the economic bail-out bill. This reauthorization updates the funding formula to allow for a broader distribution of benefits from the program and also makes small changes in the operation of the program. The reauthorization represents a victory for thousands of communities that had been waiting several years for some certainty to the funding. With the legislation passed, the Forest Service's priority is to publicize the preliminary list of payments. They have established a website to outline the program.

Funding allocations for most states will be determined under a new formula. The new formula takes into consideration the proportion of federal forest lands, the average of the three highest years of forest county payments and per capita income. FY 2008 payments will be based on the full calculation under the new formula and FY 2009 payments will be based on 90% of that original number.

Eight states will be held harmless under the new formula: Oregon, Washington, California, South Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. All states slated to lose funding will receive 90% of their 2006 payments for 2008. In FY 2009, it will be 81 percent and in FY 2010 it will be 73 percent. All states will be under the new formula by 2011.

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