Montana' senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus has secured critical support for rural schools in a key education bill moving through the Senate. Baucus is working to renew the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP), which provides about $5 million each year that 420 Montana schools rely on to keep teachers on the job.
Baucus got the REAP program included in the major education bill Congress will debate this year, bringing it one step closer to being signed into law.
Baucus met with Executive Director of Montana School Administrators Kirk Miller and Superintendents from Centerville and East Helena this week to discuss the REAP and other priorities for Montana schools as the education bill moves forward.
"Our rural schools depend on REAP to keep teachers on the job and give Montana students the tools they need to succeed," Baucus said. "In rural Montana schools it's not uncommon for the principal to be the history teacher, the counselor and the basketball coach all at the same time. These folks work hard to overcome unique challenges and provide a world class education to Montana students. And they depend on programs like REAP that invest specifically in rural schools and give them the flexibility to address the unique needs of their students."
"REAP is very important to our district. If we didn't have REAP funding we would probably lose two of our title aids that we employ at the school to work with our kids in one on one situations. We rely on the REAP money we get each year and we need it as a part of our budget. So it is very important to our district and our kids," said Centerville Schools Superintendent Dennis Gerke.
"REAP is an employment factor for schools across the state of Montana. The REAP money has been there for a long enough period of time that most schools are employing people as a result of that money and those people are delivering direct services to children, which is what this is all about. So REAP is very vital to Montana and we appreciate Senator Baucus and his co-sponsorship of the reauthorization of REAP funds," said Executive Director of School Administrators of Montana Kirk Miller.
"As a past President of the Montana Association of School Superintendents, I can say that my colleagues that work with me depend greatly on REAP money to make sure that services get to children in Montana," said Superintendent of East Helena Schools Ron Whitmoyer.
The Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) provides funds specifically for rural schools whose needs often aren't met by typical grant funds. REAP also gives rural schools maximum flexibility to use funds in the way that works best for them.
About 420 Montana schools rely on REAP funds, for a total of about $5 million each year
The REAP program is currently expired. Baucus made sure the REAP program is renewed in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that passed out of the Senate Education Committee earlier this summer. That bill is expected to be debated in the Senate floor later this year.