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Letter to the Senate on Rural Schools

March 18, 2013

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we would like to offer our views in connection with tomorrow’s hearing, “Keeping the Commitment to Rural Communities.” We thank the Committee for holding a hearing on this vital issue and exploring options for reauthorizing and reforming the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.  

Before the Act was first passed, funding for many schools near national forests had dropped dramatically due to declining revenues from timber sales—in some cases, to less than ten percent of historic levels. Students were severely impacted as teachers and education support professionals were laid off, extracurricular programs eliminated, and desperately needed building repairs postponed.  

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act offered a solution: consistent and reliable funding for over 4,400 schools in 770 rural counties located near national forests across America. Tens of thousands of students have benefited from the program. Without it, schools and libraries in many rural communities would have closed, mental-health services would have been eliminated, educators and other public service employees would have been laid off, search-and-rescue operations and sheriffs’ patrols would have been curtailed, and prisoners would have been released from jails.  

The affected schools and communities are still struggling to make ends meet. We look forward to working with the Committee to craft a long-term, sustainable approach to ensuring their economic vitality and security.  

We thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments.  

Sincerely,  

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations