Pocahontas County Teacher Fighting To Keep Forest Money Available
Marlinton, WV – Pocahontas County teacher Shirlene Groceclose is enlisting the help of anyone willing to help put pressure on the US Congress to reauthorize Safe and Secure Rural Schools legislation. This source of federal funding, also referred to as forest money, will expire in 2012. It’s a crucial source of income for schools in rural counties like Pocahontas.
Groceclose and Commissioner Reta Griffith spoke to the Pocahontas County Board of Education asking them to get involved with the Partnership for Rural America, a group actively pursuing the reauthorization of the Safe and Secure Rural Schools Act. The act was created in 2000 to provide funding to offset the loss of revenues to counties from severely reduced federal timber sales. Groceclose says over 60% of Pocahontas County land is covered by forest owned by the state or federal government.
The history of Safe and Secure Rural schools goes back to President Teddy Roosevelt. He established a revenue sharing plan specifying 25% of all revenues from National Forests would be returned to forested counties. This law worked for nearly a century until changes in natural resources policy substantially reduced the level of revenue generated by sales of the timber. The SRS act was created to provide assistance to those counties most severely affected by the decline of timber sales.
Pocahontas County received just over $863,000.00 in 2008. The amount of the award decreases with each successive year of the legislation, so the county will receive just over $629,000.00 in 2011, the last year for dispersements under the current authorization.
Groceclose says they are already campaigning to get SRS reauthorized for another 10 years. She says it could be an uphill battle, as some in Washington, including US Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, are not in support of continuing the program.
Commissioner Griffith says if they SRS act is not reauthorized, Pocahontas will be dependent on timber sales to help pay for educational expenses. This could mean less teachers, larger classes and less opportunity for Pocahontas County kids.
If you’d like more information about the legislation and how you can help, please visit www.partnershipforruralamerica.org.