When President Barack Obama signed a national transportation bill last week, many rural education advocates cheered because it included a one-year extension of funding that helps their schools.
The Secure Rural Schools Act has given rural communities in national forest areas money to compensate for revenue lost because of restrictions on harvesting timber in those regions. The program has been around since 2000, and rural areas, especially its schools, have come to depend on the $3 billion it provided.
The law expired last year, but the transportation bill signed into law included a one-time allocation of $346 million to 700 rural counties in 41 states. The biggest chunk, or $100 million, will go to Oregon, while $39.3 million will go to California, $27.4 million to Idaho, $21.3 million to Washington, and $20.4 million to Montana.
"This is obviously a lifeline, but not a solution," said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., in a story in the Helena Independent Record in Helena, Mont. "It is getting very, very, very difficult to fund this program, and frankly the local governments are frustrated at the sort of yo-yo effect they have to go through depending on direct payments from Congress."
We've reported on the efforts to sustain this funding, and supporters of the law had hoped to see it extended for longer. Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget included a request for the reauthorization of the law for five years, and the Partnership for Rural America campaign had advocated for a long-term, 10-year reauthorization of the legislation. Still, the partnership described it as a "lifeline" and was grateful for lawmakers who advocated for it.
If you're curious about much money your state has received in recent years from the Secure Rural Schools Act, the Partnership for Rural America Campaign Web site has a great map that gives that information. States in the western part of the country have received the most.