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Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos changed the eligibility criteria for the Rural and Low-Income School Programme, which is expected to result in hundreds of rural schools across the U.S. losing vital funds, Yahoo! News reported. 

The programme provides funding for school districts in some of the poorest parts of the country and the change will make it harder for districts to demonstrate their eligibility.

Almost a seventh of the U.S.’s public school students live in rural school districts, which have long been underfunded. Many depend on the programme to fund initiatives from anti-bullying campaigns to counselling to language lessons for non-English speakers. 

School districts must prove that at least 20% of their area’s school-age children live in poverty in order to qualify for the programme.

They are required to do so using census data, but the census often leaves out many people living in rural areas and schools had previously been able to cite the percentage of their students who qualify for free or subsidized meals.

The department, headed by President Trump’s most controversial cabinet appointee, decided that it will only allow districts to use census data, meaning districts will struggle to account for all children in their local areas who would qualify.

The move has been met with bipartisan condemnation, as well as those sympathetic to Donald Trump. They remain baffled as to why the department would withdraw the money from poor, rural districts, which include core parts of the president’s electoral base. 

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