Arizona Rural
Schools Association
who we are

Welcome to Our Blog Post 

Be sure to check back frequently so you can catch up on the latest blog posts. We hope that you will enjoy all the articles.

Are You Ready for REAP Funding?

Rural Education Achievement Program – Small Rural Schools Achievement (REAP-SRSA) is a federal grant program that provides supplemental funding for eligible schools in rural areas. Over the last five years, there have been a number of changes to the program that affect eligibility and access. Since a number of rural superintendents might not be aware of what the program is, we are providing some background as well as some information about the changes. We also know that a significant amount of federal funding goes unclaimed each year.

REAP funding used to be referred to as REAP-flex funding because LEAs enjoy a high level of flexibility. The criteria for spending REAP funding follow the guidelines of all other federal title grants. If an expenditure is allowable under Title I-IX, it is an allowable REAP expenditure. Prior to 2016, eligible schools did not even have to apply for the funds. All schools who were eligible received an award letter and were able to draw down the funds for allowable expenditures directly through the G5 award payment system. In 2016, they implemented an application process. This may have been needed to account for the growing number of districts that received awards but never expended the funds. By putting a simple application in place, USDOE ensures LEAs are paying attention. There are still no completion reports, and the grant applications are filed directly with the U.S. Department of Education, so there’s none of the pesky review-reject-resubmit business common with federal grants reviewed by ADE. The application is due in the spring, and USDOE provides extensive webinar training on how to complete and submit the application. You can estimate the amount of the grant to be received under the SRSA grant. It is based on a simple formula. Take the number of students in ADA, subtract 50, and multiply that amount by $100. The ADA value is based on what ADE reports to USDOE and is often in error. Check the eligibility spreadsheet that will be published in a few weeks and report any errors to USDOE immediately. The product of the adjusted ADA and $100 is increased by $20,000 but capped at $60,000. From that amount, subtract the amount received for Title II and Title IV (two years prior). This gives an estimated amount to be received. Actual awards may vary.  

Of the 614 LEAs identified in Arizona, 130 are eligible for SRSA grants. Of the 130 eligible districts, only 75 submitted applications. In order to be eligible, a district needs to be 'Small' and 'Rural'. Small districts are those serving fewer than 600 students, unless the total population density of the county is fewer than 10 people per square mile. In Arizona, only Apache, Coconino, Graham, Greenlee, and Navajo counties meet the population density threshold. All LEAs in those five counties are considered 'Small'. In addition to being ‘Small’ as already defined, a school has to be ‘Rural’. A school is considered ‘Rural’ if the secretary of education’s NCES system assigns them a locale code of 41, 42, or 43, or if the state education department defines the LEA as ‘Rural’. Of the 130 eligible LEAs, 25 (14 Districts and 11 Charters) relied on the SEA determination of ‘Rural’ for their eligibility. When USDOE published the list of eligible LEAs for fiscal year 2018, those 25 LEAs were not eligible for REAP-SRSA grants because ADE had not identified any schools as ‘Rural’. The issue was addressed for that year, but there was a need for a statute defining ‘Rural’ to ensure future eligibility determinations were made correctly. During the budget reconciliation process of the 2018 legislative session, ARSA was able to work with the Arizona Department of Education to generate a statutory definition of 'Rural'. Any school district or charter school located either in a county with a population less than or equal to a tenth of the state population or farther than ten miles from a municipality with more than 50,000 residents qualifies as ‘Rural’ for the purpose of eligibility for federal grants. This statute protects the eligibility of districts, who due to vagaries in census data may not receive NCES Locale codes of 41, 42, or 43.

Of the 130 local education agencies (districts and charters) eligible for REAP-SRSA grants, only 75 applied for the grants. This is because most REAP-SRSA schools are also eligible for the REAP-Rural Low Income School (RLIS) grant. RLIS grants are applied for through the ADE Grants Management System. Eligibility is based on the level of poverty found within a district. Funding is based on the number of students within the LEA. For large districts, the RLIS grant provides more funding than the SRSA grant. There are no caps and RLIS funds are allocated to the state and then divided up among eligible LEAs based on enrollment. The 72 districts receiving RLIS grants for last year represented 80,302.65 students. These schools receive a portion of the $1,664,050 that Arizona received. That works out to $20.58 per student. Education leaders need to be evaluating which REAP program provides the best funding for their district. If you haven’t evaluated the options lately, it would be a good idea.  

Last year, Arizona received $3,345,000 in federal funding for rural schools through REAP. Some estimates project we should receive more than $4,000,000. LEAs fail to apply for funds for which are eligible or fail to maximize their awards. These errors cost Arizona rural schools more than a half a million dollars. We know that there are 163 LEAs in Arizona that are eligible for REAP funding, but only 145 received either a RLIS or SRSA grant. That leaves 18 LEAs that left money on the table, and with an average SRSA award of $23,000 we can confidently project that more than $400,000 in federal money wasn’t claimed.  

Federal grant funding can be a daunting process, but there are monies there to support rural schools. If you need assistance with figuring out eligibility or determining what your grant should be and why, please feel free to contact either Mr. Sean Rickert, advocacy coordinator or Mr. Wes Brownfield, executive director. They will be glad to offer any assistance.