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Federal Rural Development Funds Can Help High-Need Schools

A host of rural communities across the country will benefit from federal money that will go toward facility needs, and many of those needs are tied to education.

Within the past few weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office has announced $273 million in projects that will receive funding.

The Rural Development office manages infrastructure and facility programs to improve rural communities' economic stability and quality of life. Federal officials say the Community Facilities Grant program is a vital funding source for rural communities that often struggle to repair or build new structures.

The problem is that many rural school leaders are unaware of these federal funds because they're not doled out by the U.S. Department of Education.

To increase awareness and access, federal Secretaries of Education and Agriculture, Arne Duncan and Tom Vilsack, respectively, coordinated a direct outreach campaign earlier this year.

They hosted a series of conference calls with rural school leaders and advocacy groups, such as the American Association of School Administrators and the National Rural Education Association, and rural educators were encouraged to contact their state U.S. Department of Agriculture office for help.

They also posted transcripts of the calls to provide additional details.

Rural Development funds can go to areas such as school construction, renovation, teacher housing, home loan assistance for teachers and administrators, distance learning, and broadband technology. The latest projects to receive Rural Development assistance funds included community facilities in rural areas that will be used by the public.

Some examples of the education projects funded include the M.O.T. Charter School, Inc., in New Castle, Del. It will receive a $2.8 million Rural Development loan to expand its existing facility by 19,000 square feet. A new wing will be built to include a library, two additional classrooms, a lobby, a multi-purpose area, a booster room, and bathrooms.

Another was in Cotulla, Texas. The community will receive a direct loan of $509,000 to renovate a convention center and build an attached educational nature center where visitors can learn about wildlife.

The Rural Development office has complete lists of the latest projects to receive funding.

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