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Letter to Senators Kennedy and Enzi on the Rural Education Achievement Program

August 16, 2007

Dear Chairman Kennedy and Ranking Member Enzi:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we encourage you to retain the current funding formula in the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP).  We oppose efforts to change the formula to operate through the states.

As you know, REAP allows our nation's smallest and most geographically isolated rural schools to consolidate Teacher Quality and Educational Technology Programs funds, and to use these funds to carry out activities under Title I, Teacher Quality, Educational Technology, Language Acquisition, Innovative Program, and Safe and Drug-Free Schools programs. In this way, it allows rural schools to receive allocations large enough to be effective in meeting their intended purposes. 

The current funding formula, which directs federal grants to local education agencies, has worked very well since the program's inception, ensuring that rural schools receive necessary additional funding to overcome the challenges of geographic isolation. We are very concerned that converting the program to a state grant system would create an additional level of bureaucracy, thereby reducing the funds going to local districts and creating uncertainty as to when districts would receive their funding. As a result, the program's overall efficiency, demonstrated clearly over the past five years, would decrease. 

NEA does support a number of technical corrections to the program. These include updating locale codes to reflect those developed by the Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics, increasing the minimum and maximum grant sizes to account for inflation, and providing flexibility for local educational agencies that potentially qualify under both the Small Rural Schools Achievement and Rural and Low-Income Schools programs. However, in making any changes to the program, we ask that you preserve the integrity of the formula structure and retain the Small Rural Schools program as a federal to local grant.

We thank you for your consideration of our views on this important issue and look forward to continuing to work with you to fulfill every child's basic right to a great public school. 

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy