Increasing Support for High-Need Rural Schools

At a time when the new normal means increasing productivity to do more with less, the Obama Administration is doing more to guide high-need rural school leaders to federal resources that some are not aware exist outside of education.

While school leaders often turn to the Department of Education for support, they have asked senior officials where else to look for federal support for rural schools. The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development offices provide a national infrastructure of support and assistance particularly for high-poverty rural communities.

To increase access to federal resources where they are needed most, the Secretaries of Education and Agriculture, Arne Duncan and Tom Vilsack, are working collaboratively to guide rural school leaders and stakeholders to programs and funding available through their local USDA Rural Development offices. USDA Rural Development can help with school construction, renovation, teacher housing, home loan assistance for teachers and administrators, distance learning and broadband technology, and even a school bus replacement grant for a community facility.

Senior staff members within both departments in Washington D.C., the Department of Education’s 10 regional offices, and USDA’s state offices are coordinating on a direct outreach campaign to fulfill the secretaries’ commitment to bring new resources to high-need rural schools.

The following table provides examples of how USDA Rural Development programs can provide needed support for rural schools [MS Word]. Rural school leaders should contact their USDA state office for assistance with accessing Rural Development programs, http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html .

The two departments have hosted a series of conference calls with rural school leaders, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders. The transcripts of those calls provide additional details on how USDA programs can provide critical support for high-need rural schools.