By Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2020

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The federal government has decided to delay changing the way it determines funding for rural education after a bipartisan group of lawmakers said the move would hurt hundreds of schools.

The U.S. Department of Education had planned to change the eligibility methodology for the Rural Low-Income Schools Program. A group of senators, led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, said the change would take access to funding away from more than 800 rural, low-income schools this year.

The senators said that would mean the schools would lose millions of dollars, and they told Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a Wednesday letter that it would also take away access to “the only dedicated federal funding stream to help rural schools overcome the increased expenses caused by geographic isolation.”

Collins and Hassan said later Wednesday the department has decided to put off the changes.

“Had it not, more than 800 rural, low-income schools could have lost crucial funding and been forced to forgo essential activities and services, such as technology upgrades and expanded class offerings for reading, physical education, art, music, and distance learning,” the senators said in a statement.

A message seeking comment was left with spokespeople for the Department of Education on Thursday.

The department was planning to stop allowing states to use data about the percentage of students receiving free lunch to measure poverty. The schools will be allowed to continue doing so for at least another year.

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