ED issues informational document on Rural Education Achievement Program

By: | February 2, 2021
(AdobeStock/Mario Savoia)(AdobeStock/Mario Savoia)

The U.S. Education Department issued a new informational document that provides state and local educational agencies with important information about the Rural Education Achievement Program.

“The topics in this document address the frequent requests of small, rural LEAs to provide clear and current information on how to apply for, receive, and use REAP funds,” according to the new guidance. “By disseminating this document, the department is committed to improving communication with all REAP grantees in order to support grantee understanding of program requirements and flexibilities.”

The document describes the qualification requirements for eligibility under two separate Rural Education Achievement Program programs: the Small, Rural School Achievement program and the Rural and Low-Income School program.

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SRSA grants are provided by formula from ED to qualifying districts nationwide. LEAs must apply for SRSA funds from the SEA yearly, and LEAs must be both small and rural, as defined by ESSA.

The guidance defines small schools as having a daily attendance of fewer than 600 students or serving only schools in a country with a population density of 10 or fewer persons per square mile.

Rural schools must have an eligible school locale code for rural areas, which is assigned by the National Center for Education Statistics, or be located in an area defined as rural by a state governmental agency.

RLIS funds are provided for rural LEAs with high concentrations of poverty, and funds are allocated either through the SEA to the LEA or from ED to the LEA.

An LEA is eligible for RLIS if it meets the definition of rural, with an eligible school locale code from NCES, and low income, in which “20 percent or more of the children ages five to 17 served by the LEA” are from families with incomes below the poverty line “as determined by Census Bureau Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates.”

If that data is unavailable, LEAs may also qualify as low-income under state-derived SAIPE data used to allocate Title I, Part A funds.

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The informational document discusses other topics, including:

  • The process for ED consideration and approval of funding for both REAP programs.
  • Allowable uses of SRSA and RLIS funds.
  • Monitoring and tracking fund use.
  • Transferability and Alternative Use Fund Authority.
  • Considerations for LEAs that are eligible for both REAP programs.
  • Comparison of NCLB and ESSA requirements for REAP participants.

The 54-page document is one of the last pieces of ED non-regulatory guidance issued by the Trump administration, and it remains to be seen whether the Biden administration’s executive orders or memos on rules and regulations will result in reviewing or rescinding the guidance.

Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for LRP Publications, the parent company of District Administration.