Department’s decision threatens funding for more than 100 schools in Maine
Senator Collins coauthored the law directing this funding to rural schools
Washington, D.C. —U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Education Committee, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expressing her opposition to the Department’s decision that it plans to cut $1.2 million from Maine’s rural, low-income schools made available through the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP). Senator Collins coauthored the law creating this program in 2002 as well as the reauthorization in 2015.
REAP created the Rural Low-Income Schools Program (RLIS), which is critical to ensuring rural districts are able to overcome the unique challenges associated with geographic isolation and poverty. Last year, 149 Maine schools were eligible for the RLIS program, but an abrupt decision by the Department of Education to change its criteria will result in the elimination of funding to more than 100 of those schools in Maine.
“The Department should immediately reverse this misguided change and restore the use of alternative poverty data as an acceptable measurement, so that rural, low-income students, their teachers, and their school communities are spared from drastic cuts that will affect the quality of public education in rural America,” Senator Collins wrote. “[S]mall and rural school districts often forgo competitive grants because they lack the resources to compete for grants. REAP helps rural schools overcome these challenges by providing them with additional funding and flexibility. Decisions that curtail this flexibility run counter to the purpose of the law and undermine the effectiveness of these programs.”
“I urge you to use any and all possible interim measures and authorities to prevent such severe cuts for rural, low-income students and the RLIS program this year. If this decision is not reversed, the Department risks denying thousands of students living in rural Maine the chance to reach their full potentials,” Senator Collins continued.
For 16 years, Maine has qualified for RLIS because the Department of Education has measured school district poverty levels by the percentage of students receiving free lunch. Although free lunch data is an important measure of poverty for rural districts, this year, the Department decided that it will no longer allow Maine to use this data to determine eligibility for the RLIS program.
Click HERE to read the full letter.