Temple, Texas, Dec 12, 2011 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that recipients in 34 states and one territory will receive funding to improve access to health care and educational services in rural areas. Beneficiaries in Texas will be awarded a total of $1.2 million in grants provided through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program.
“This program delivers educational and medical opportunities that are urgently needed in remote, rural areas,” Vilsack said. “President Obama has said that no matter where you live in America, you should have access to quality educational opportunities. Rural Americans deserve the same opportunities for education and medical care as metropolitan-area residents, and these funds will make that happen.”
"Schools and health care systems in rural Texas have increasingly tighter budgets each year. Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants are powerful tools for providing expanded educational and medical opportunities which otherwise may be unavailable to students and residents of rural communities," said Paco Valentin, USDA Rural Development State Director of Texas.
Education Service Centers 4, 15 and 20 have been awarded funding for video teleconferencing equipment to enhance current, or establish new, distance learning technology throughout each region. ESC-4 will use the funding to bring video teleconferencing to 25 elementary, middle and high schools in five counties throughout East Texas, with Houston serving as the hub site. ESC-20 identified 10 schools in South Central Texas with the greatest need for access to services. It will use the funding to bring distance learning course, particularly math and science courses, to middle and high-school classrooms. Classes geared toward adults, GED and high school diploma courses, and parenting and ESL classes will also be offered, along with professional development training for teachers. ESC-15 will use the funding to improve their current system which covers 30 schools over 2,500 miles of territory throughout Mid-West Texas. Schools will use the equipment to provide classes to each other, and share teachers and learning techniques to offset classes currently not available in each school. Course will be available for K-12 students as well as professional development courses for teachers, continuing education class for adults and workforce development for community members. Funding will enable each school to link with educational opportunities previously unavailable in some locations.
A grant was also announced for the Crane County Hospital District. The hospital will use the funding to replace an obsolete radiology system with a new digital system that will vastly improve the level of care for community members. Images will now be instantly displayed on the new monitor, reducing patient exposure to radiation. Additionally the image will be immediately sent to the Radiologist in Odessa to evaluate, thus reducing travel time wait time for results.
Additionally, a grant was provided to the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum in Abilene to unite three Texas school districts to a New York State district, Cisco College in Cisco, Texas and the museum. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts, research, photos and history on World War II and the Holocaust that they intended to use for interactive courses and projects between the schools. By linking Cisco College, the participating rural schools will receive distance learning courses and will be able to engage in more rigorous classes to offset the barriers of isolation in rural communities. The college will also offer vocational courses and health programs using their simulation lab for students and adult learners.
Awards are contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the agreement with USDA. For information on how to apply for DLT grants, or any other USDA Rural Development funding please, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/TX.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has a portfolio of more than $160 billion in loans and loan guarantees.