Many rural schools applauded last summer's one-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, and federal officials announced this week the details of the $323 million that will be shared by 41 states.
About $291.4 million of that $323 million will be distributed to states this month, and the state-by-state figures have been posted online. A second distribution will occur later. For those interested in digging down further, county-by-county numbers have also been published.
"These payments are part of the Department of Agriculture's long-standing commitment to rural communities, schools and American youth," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "Our century-long support of America's public schools and roads is one of many ways in which the Forest Service, as a good neighbor and partner, contributes to rural communities becoming self-sustaining and prosperous."
The Secure Rural Schools Act has been around since 2000, and rural areas, including schools, have come to depend on the funding it provides. The money goes to rural communities in national forest areas to compensate for revenue lost because of restrictions on harvesting timber in those regions.
The funds can be spent in a number of ways, such as supporting public schools. Rural communities receiving the money will get about 95 percent of what they did in the previous fiscal year.
The money makes a difference to the schools that get it. The Redding Record Searchlight in Redding, Calif., recently had a story about how the funding will help one school keep its athletic programs in tact.
It's unclear what will happen when this one-year extension ends, but a loss of funding could have serious ramifications for states such as Oregon, which will receive $63 million this month as part of its roughly $70.1 million annual allocation.