Millions in rural Idaho school funding in jeopardy

The monies come from the federal government and are critical to rural communities.

BOISE -- Students in Idaho's rural school districts are at risk of losing valuable resources. Twenty-three million federal dollars known as the Secure Rural Schools fund has run out. It leaves state lawmakers and local schools pushing to get the money back.

Idaho City Principal and Superintendent John McFarlane says it's money that's needed for their 330 students. He says 86 percent of Boise County is federal land, meaning there's not a lot of money coming in from taxes to support their schools.

The money stems from what used to be called forest funds. It was a percentage of the timber industry that went back into rural school districts like Idaho City.

"We used to get stumpage, which would give us two to three times what we're getting now," said McFarlane.

He says when the industry started to suffer, the Secure Rural Schools fund emerged instead, paid for by the federal government.

"It's significant because of the flexibility of using the dollars, it's critical for what we do here," said McFarlane.

McFarlane says last year they received about $100,000. They used the money for utilities, salaries, and expanding programs.

But, the Secure Rural Schools money is now anything but secure and has yet to be renewed for this year. Schools received the last payment this past spring.

"We budget for zero dollars in the upcoming year in hopes of something happening, you have to play it safe but those are very valuable dollars to our district," said McFarlane.

McFarlane says he and other rural districts are frustrated, waiting to see how much money they'll get, if any.

Meanwhile, Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden are pushing to get a new bill passed that guarantees the funding for years to come.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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