Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) Survey Report
November 14, 2023
Technology, Professional Development, Staff Pay Among Top Spending Decisions by Rural School Districts
Rural schools represent 28% of all schools in the United States, serving more than 9 million students. Although the federal definition of rural differs by department, agency and program (the U.S. Department of Agriculture alone has more than 7), the Department of Education (ED) determines rurality based on low population density and geographic distance from more populated areas. Rural schools vary greatly across the country but these definitive factors result in a few similar challenges. Smaller populations mean that rural schools often have less students, staff and resources than their suburban and urban counterparts. And due to their isolated location, services are more difficult and expensive to access, attracting educators is harder and the lack of broadband connectivity is more prevalent.
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, represents more than 10,000 education leaders – with 38% from rural communities. As an organization committed to ensuring equitable access to a high-quality education for all students, we support federal policy that flexibly addresses the unique needs of rural communities. The Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is the only federal program that provides funding solely to K-12 rural schools and provides broad flexibility on how districts can use funds to support students. However, the program hasn’t been studied in almost a decade.
In August 2023, AASA surveyed district leaders from across the country who participate in REAP to gain a better understanding of how they utilize the investment to support students.
- More than half (56%) of respondents used REAP funding for purchasing technology, devices and software.
- More than one-quarter (27%) of respondents used REAP funding for professional development for teachers and staff.
- One fifth of respondents (20%) use REAP funding to invest in greater staff compensation and expand curricular offerings (STEM courses, art education, etc.)
- District leaders were least likely to dedicate REAP funding to resources for their school libraries, supports for English learners/migrant students and activities designed to increase access to high-quality advanced coursework. (One explanation for the low percentage for support for English Language Learners (ELL) could be that participating districts don’t have a large population of ELLs and therefore these investments are not necessary.