Tester to DeVos: "Stop Forcing Montana Schools to Jump Through B - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Tester to DeVos: "Stop Forcing Montana Schools to Jump Through Bureaucratic Hoops"

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Big Sandy, MT - U.S. Senator Jon Tester called on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to overturn her new requirements that have rural schools complete additional paperwork to access their Small, Rural School Achievement Program grants.

More than 300 Montana school districts qualify for the Small, Rural School Achievement Program grants.  The grants are available to rural school districts with less than 600 students, and last year Montana school districts received more than $5 million through Small, Rural School Achievement Program grants.

"It is important educators spend their valuable time ensuring students get the best possible education, not battling federal paperwork and jumping through bureaucratic hoops," Tester wrote.  "Instead of dedicating precious time to wrapping up one school year and preparing for the next, rural schools were swimming through an alphabet soup of government acronyms just to understand what your Department is now requiring from them."

Tester says Montana superintendents have contacted him stating that the additional requirements and time restraints are wasting time and hurting students.

"It came as a shock at the end of the school year to realize we had a plethora of hoops to jump through in order to access our REAP funds for the 2017-2018 school year, and very little time in which to complete the process," said Jule Walker, Superintendent of Plevna Public Schools.  "In previous years the application allowed for expeditious access to the funds, as well as local control, on behalf of educating our students.  The 2017 application was very time consuming, especially for Districts with one administrator focused on completing end of the school year activities.  The requirement for watching scheduled webinars as well as navigating the cumbersome directives to access a variety of sites created anxiety for many administrators because we recognize the significance of the funding REAP provides.  One has to question why these tedious procedures were created-Is it to make the process so daunting that rural schools could not meet the deadlines thereby justifying a lack of interest or need for this additional funding for our students?  REAP funding DOES make a difference for the students we serve in our rural districts."

"The Montana Small Schools Alliance represents 138 frontier one and two room school districts who have one teacher responsible for all of the district paperwork," said Dan Ranks, Executive Director of the Montana Small School Alliance.  "These are districts who have previously received the REAP grant as approximately 25-30 percent of their total budget and have utilized it effectively and properly.  To place burdensome new requirements on those districts is exceptionally short sited.  The MSSA wholeheartedly supports Senator Jon Tester's efforts to roll them back and a striking example of why Senator Tester was unanimously selected as the 2017 'Rural Hero' award winner by the National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium for his support of rural youth nationwide."

Tester's letter to DeVos is available here.

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