Approving bill would help rural schools
Congress is considering a measure that makes a lot of sense and has the potential to bring great benefits to our local region.
U.S. Rep Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, recently invited Switzerland of Ohio Local School District Superintendent Jeff Greenley to speak before Congress. Greenlee told the lawmakers about the many challenges districts like his face. Switzerland is a rural school system and the largest district in the state in terms of geography.
Low incomes and a high unemployment rate affect the entire population of the district. Switzerland of Ohio also faces tremendous transportation costs because of the distance its school buses must cover each day.
“There’s also gaps we have in terms of mental and emotional health for students that other districts have less of a problem with,” Greenley said. “There’s gaps with academic standards.”
Johnson has proposed a measure that would return a portion of the revenues from oil and gas extracted from federal lands to the counties where those lands are located. That could help schools in those areas as well.
The Providing Opportunity with Energy Revenues in Counties Act, also known as the POWER Counties Act, would amend the Mineral Leasing Act to require a payment to counties of a portion of certain revenues received by the United States under federal oil and gas leases. Greenley said 50 percent of all federal land oil and gas money now goes to Columbus, 40 percent goes to the Reclamation Fund to fund water projects on the west coast and 10 percent goes to federal treasury.
Johnson wants 40 percent of the Reclamation Fund go to counties where the oil and gas are extracted to fund construction, schools and roads.
“This would be very transformative for us,” Greenley said. “With those additional revenues we could really invest in additional staffing for our students. We would be really interested in doing behavioral and mental health support. We could partner with different institutions that could really provide resources for our students. Also, we are really interested in our vocational center as well.”
Greenely said one more thing that is very true: “Rural kids matter.”
We here in the Ohio Valley know that, and so does Johnson. We applaud his efforts to tap this additional source of revenue, and we urge Congress to act quickly in support of the measure.