Letter to the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands on Forest County Schools
September 22, 2011
On behalf of the National Education Association’s (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to offer our views on the Secure Rural Schools program in advance of today’s hearing in the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. We are pleased that this hearing will continue the Committee’s focus on the need for a long-term sustainable solution for students, schools, and communities.
A decade ago, NEA supported the passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. Prior to its passage, many forest-impacted communities had seen dramatic reductions in federal forest land revenues due to significant decreases in federal timber sales. As a result, payments to many rural forest schools dropped to less than ten percent of their historic levels. Many forest communities faced devastating losses of education funding leading to reductions in teaching staff and other education personnel, elimination of extracurricular programs, cancellation of school meals programs, and postponement of desperately needed building repairs.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act offered a solution to the forest county education funding crisis by ensuring a predictable payment to federally-impacted forest counties. The program has restored critical educational services for students in over 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools. It has prevented the closure of numerous isolated rural schools. Without the program, impacted counties would have had to lay off school staff and other public service employees, close libraries, curtail sheriff patrols, release prisoners from jails, cease search and rescue operations, and eliminate mental health care services.
However, these communities and schools continue to struggle. They need a long-term, sustainable solution that will foster development and economic recovery and help ensure their security and vitality into the future. We look forward to working with the Committee to design an effective, long-term, sustainable solution.
We thank you for your consideration of our views on this important issue.
Director of Government Relations
Manager of Federal Advocacy