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Rural Schools See Sharp Funding Cuts From National Forest Revenues

Rural schools in counties with federal forest land are reporting a significant loss of funds in the wake of the 2014 expiration of the Secure Rural Schools Act, according to a story by Virginia's WDBJ.

The act, which was established in 2000, expired in 2006 but has received multiple extensions. The funding is meant to provide consistent support for more than 4,400 schools located near national forest areas. Last year, states received about $300 million in funding. Because the law was not reauthorized last year, funding has reverted to a formula created in 1908, which stipulates that states will receive 25 percent of timber sales from their national forest land. Under that formula, 41 states will receive a cut of $50 million this year.

Across the country, superintendents have reported deep cuts in funding as the 1908 formula kicks in. In Alleghany County in western Pennsylvania, funding dropped from $140,000 to $28,000. Kelly Wilmore, superintendent of Craig County School District in Pennsylvania, told WDBJ that his funding has dropped by 85 percent. "We need our federal government to start picking up the slack," Wilmore said. "Not being able to tax really puts us at a disadvantage, so there needs to be some kind of compromise."

In Steamboat Springs, Colo., the school district will receive about $77,000 less than in 2014 according to Steamboat Today. Colorado is poised to receive about $5 million, compared to more than $13 million last year. In Montana, Missoula County will lose $389,000 in funding and Lincoln County will lose $2.4 million, according to an editorial in the Missoulian, which called for action from Congress. "It's time for Congress to pass new legislation that would provide fair, reliable, and predictable compensation for these counties, instead of stringing them along with ever-decreasing payments year after year." 

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