Secure Rural Schools Program – What’s Next?

| December 18, 2014

Spending Bill Ends Rural School Fund

By Tim Marema

Since 2000 the federal government has helped counties that relied on the timber industry to make up some of their local education funding. But that program received no money in the end-of-year spending package Congress just approved.

The trillion dollar spending package that Congress passed Saturday night doesn’t include funding for rural schools that have struggled to make up shortfalls because of declines in the timber industry.

The Secure Rural Schools program provided about $270 million to 729 counties this year, according to a press release from the National Association of Counties. But funds for the program aren’t included in the new spending package that Congress just negotiated.

Secure Rural Schools was launched in 2000, primarily to help schools defray the loss of public revenue that came from the struggling timber industry. Funds may also be used for road maintenance. Because the program primarily serves areas that had timbering, it skews toward helping rural counties.

(The map above shows the 2013 projected funding for the program. Red and dark red areas received the most funding in raw dollars. You can see how the payments tend to be higher in Western U.S., where timber harvests were generally greater. Click on any colored county to see the amount of SRS funding that county was projected to receive in 2013.)

Counties that relied on income from the Secure Rural Schools program are scrambling, according to press reports.

“It’s really important money.  Losing it is very disheartening,” said Supervisor Liz Archuleta of Coconino County, Arizona, according to the Arizona Republic. While Coconino is in the Flagstaff metro area, the massive county (second largest in land area in the lower 48 states) has significant rural areas.

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Category: Education, Health, Programs, Resources

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