USDA Rural Development Texas State Director, Paco Valentin, with Area Director, John Smith, highlighted USDA’s commitment to improvements in rural education systems with a funding announcement today to the Info-Net Consortium to assist with new and upgraded broadband capabilities. The funding will be provided through the USDA Rural Development Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program.
"Students in the most rural communities may not have access to museums, science programs or other various educational resources," said Valentin. "Distance learning opens the door to new opportunities for these students to make connections and access current resources from within their own schools. USDA Rural Development Distance Learning and Grants are powerful tools for providing expanded educational opportunities which otherwise may be unavailable."
The $446,176 grant will be used to connect 10 Independent School Districts with broadband capabilities, to include Brady, Cherokee, Evant, Goldthwaite, Llano, Lohn, Lometa, Priddy, Rochelle, and San Saba. Central Texas Telephone Cooperative, Inc., in Goldthwaite, will serve as the local exchange carrier. The funds will be used to purchase distance learning equipment to create new learning opportunities for over 15,000 students and residents while increasing training opportunities for educators. With this new technology, the services now available to students and rural residents will now include access to GED providers, all levels of higher education and continuing education providers, specialized job training, foreign language and ESL courses, and access to medical providers and online libraries. Distance education will afford rural school students the same opportunities as larger, more urban schools. This will enhance the quality of education in rural schools and allow these students to become more competitive in the job market.
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program provides access to education, training and health care resources in rural areas. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. These funds are part of USDA’s annual budget and are not part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/tx/.