Natural Resources Committee Passes McMorris Rodgers’ Secure Rural Schools Amendment

(Washington, D.C.)  Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers offered an amendment today in the House Natural Resources Committee to clarify that the money made available under the Secure Rural Schools program is intended to be additional money for schools located in counties with forest service land and cannot be used in lieu of general funds that states make available to support public schools. The amendment was passed unanimously by a voice vote.

“The original intent of the Secure Rural Schools program is not being carried out and schools are being robbed of their intended funds,” said Cathy McMorris Rodgers. “Every dollar these schools receive from the federal government as part of this program is matched by an equivalent loss of general funding from the State. This is wrong and our schools deserve these additional funds. The money from this program would help the schools in our rural communities provide basic services that are essential to providing children with a quality education.”

McMorris Rodgers has heard from county commissioners, school board members and school superintendents throughout Eastern Washington about the need for these funds.

“We have five buildings and no daytime custodians, a minimal maintenance staff, no school librarians, and only one school counselor for 1,076 kids,” said Teresa von Marbod, Superintendent Newport School District. “The money from this program would go toward basic services that we can’t currently provide. This isn’t an extra for us, it’s about giving kids the same opportunities as everyone else, services that they desperately need in a small rural community with twice the rate of poverty as the state average.”

Since 1908 counties across the West received 25 percent of timber receipts from federal forest lands. The money was used to fund public schools, roads and emergency services. As timber harvests decline, Congress authorized the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 to restore stability to the annual payments made to states and counties containing forest service land.

The amendment was made to H.R. 3058, the Public Land Communities Transition Assistance Act, which reauthorizes the Secure Rural School program and fully funds the Payment in-lieu of Taxes program.

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