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Letter to Conferees on Secure Rural Schools

May 03, 2012

Dear Conferee: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we urge conferees on the Surface Transportation bill to accept the Senate-passed Baucus amendment to extend for one year the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.   

Prior to initial passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, 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 short term extension of the current program in order to work on a long-term, sustainable solution that will foster development and economic recovery and help ensure their security and vitality into the future.  

The Senate language will allow a one-year extension of this vital program.  We urge its inclusion in the final Surface Transportation bill conference report.  

Sincerely, 

Kim Anderson
Director, Center for Advocacy 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations