March 4, 2020

Young Joins Bipartisan Group to Protect Funds for 800 Rural, Low-Income Schools

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) led a letter that was signed by 19 of their colleagues, expressing concerns with a calculation adjustment that jeopardizes funding eligibility for more than 800 rural, low-income schools. In their letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Senators shared the importance of these funds for rural schools in accessing supplies, technology upgrades, curriculum, transportation, and many other supports for educators.  


“Since 2002, rural schools across the nation have relied on these additional flexible funds to purchase supplies and make technology upgrades; expand curricular offerings, such as in reading, physical education, music, and art; provide distance learning opportunities; fund transportation; and support professional development activities,” the Senators wrote. “Without any chance to prepare, this abrupt change in RLIS eligibility will force many rural schools districts to forgo essential activities and services.”


“The Department’s decision has created a funding cliff for hundreds of rural, low-income schools that are already balancing tight budgets,” the Senators continued. “REAP helps deliver an equitable and enriching education to thousands of students living in rural America.  We strongly encourage you to rescind this new interpretation and to work with Congress to serve students in rural communities.”


The Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is the only dedicated federal funding stream to help rural schools overcome the increased expenses caused by geographic isolation. It consists of two programs – the RLIS program and the Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program.


Many states have qualified for RLIS because the Department of Education previously allowed school districts to measure poverty by the percentage of students receiving free lunch. Although free lunch data is an important measure of poverty for rural districts, this year, the Department determined that free lunch data cannot be used to determine eligibility for the RLIS program. 


The letter was signed by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Angus King (I-Maine), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas).


Click here to read the full letter.