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Rural school districts are going to face special hurdles in competing in the latest round of funding from the federal stimulus package, according rural education advocates.

So the Rural School and Community Trust is trying to get the word out to rural schools and nonprofits on how they can win a piece of the federal Department of Education’s “Investing in Education” grant program (called “i3,” for short).

The national competitive grant program will provide $650 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  Deadline is May 11.

The Rural Trust will hold a webinar on the i3 grant program at 11 a.m. Eastern time on Friday, March 19, 2010. The free presentation will offer an overview on the i3 grant program, which will fund local efforts that start or expand innovative programs to help improve student performance.  (To register, visit the Trust’s website.)

Rural districts can, and should, compete for the grants, Williams said.

 “Rural districts have to understand this that challenge is really big,” she said, citing a general decline in private and public funding for rural education. “The financial picture for rural schools is pretty grim.”

Williams said funding decline was a product of several factors: private foundations shifting to a more urban focus, flat state budgets, and declining local tax revenues.

Other workshops and webinars for potential applications are being offered through the Department of Education website.

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