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Secure Rural Schools Act Extension Advances in Congress

A two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act, which provides timber revenue to schools near national forest land, has passed the U.S. House and could be discussed by the Senate next week, according to an article by Alaska Public Media.

The act was established in 2000 to provide reliable financial support for more than 4,400 schools located near national forest areas. It expired in 2006 but received multiple extensions until its expiration in 2014.

Last year, states received about $300 million in funding. This year, because the act was not reauthorized, the funding formula reverted to one created in 1908. As a result, 41 states will share around $50 million in funding this year.

In the wake of the act's expiration, schools across the country have reported sharp cuts in funding. In Steamboat Springs, Colo., the school district will receive about $77,000 less than in 2014 according to Steamboat Today. In Montana, Missoula County will lose $389,000 in funding. In Idaho, rural preschool programs that rely in part on the federal Secure Rural Schools Act funds are at risk of shutting down.

According to data from the U.S. Forest Service analyzed by NPR and Boise State Public Radio, some states, like Alaska, are poised to lose up to 96 percent of their funding. Alaska will receive $535,167, compared to its 2014 payment of more than $14 million. 

In Alaska, Petersburg borough manager Steve Giesbrecht told Alaska Public Media that he is skeptical the funding will be reinstated and continue. "We may get an extension or two in a wind-down, but there's just not a lot of support for it," Giesbrecht said. 

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