Land sales not the best way to fund rural schools

There are better ways to fund public schools than to sell off public lands.

But that's what the Bush Administration is proposing to do with 300,000 acres of national forests, including more than 2,000 acres of Tahoe National Forest in Northern Nevada. The Bush plan would raise about $800 million.

We'd be more inclined to support the plan if it were a permanent solution, but within five years those schools would need another cash infusion.

What then? Hold bake sales? Sell off more land?

A better strategy would be to put in place a long-term plan for funding those cash-strapped schools.

Sens. Max Baucus, of Montana, and Ron Wyden, of Oregon, have come up with a solution this week they say would raise $2.6 billion over the next 10 years for the rural schools program. Their plan would close a tax loophole they said allows some government contractors to avoid tax obligations.

The money would be used for roads, schools and other needs in rural counties hurt by declines in timber sales.

We're not opposed to the sale of public lands in all cases, especially living in a state where 87 percent of the land is publicly owned. But we expect a good return.

The Bush plan is not a good return.

If the lands proposed for sale are isolated or of minimal importance to wildlife or the environment, perhaps they could be traded for more environmentally valuable lands. That would be a better return.


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