There's a list somewhere in the Ravalli County Museum archives of all the one-room schools that dotted the Bitterroot Valley landscape at one time. The Sula School in the East Fork is one of the only ones remaining that looks like it did back "in the day."

Rural schools were critical for young people in frontier Montana. And though they look a lot different now, our rural schools continue the fight to stay current with educational aids that are readily available in larger populated areas. That's why the federal Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding is so important.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service distributes the money, approved by Congress. The latest amount is $14 million to Montana through Fiscal Year 2023. This is a slight increase over the $12 million disbursement in 2021, according to Montana Senator Jon Tester. He said that over the last decade, the Forest Service has reimbursed the schools over $2.6 billion nationally.

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Tester, who has strongly supported the program, said, "As a former school teacher, I know how important it is that every student receives a top-notch education no matter where they live. These resources will provide critical support for rural schools that are too often overlooked and underfunded. I will continue to fight for our students and teachers that call rural Montana home."

A Forest Service announcement put Montana's SRS total at $14,382,681. Nationally, the amount is $238 million this year. A portion of the Forest Service revenues from timber sales, mineral leases, livestock grazing, recreation fees and other sources make up the amount sent to the 41 states that have national forests. Oregon receives the most with over $47 million, followed by California with $29 million and Idaho with $23 million. Then comes Washington State with $16 million and Montana with the fifth largest amount. Versions of the federal Forest Service reimbursement started as early as 1908.

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