BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. government has delayed implementation of policy changes involving the way the U.S. Department of Education determines how schools qualify for rural low-income grants.

The Rural Low-Income Schools program would have cost as many as 220 Montana schools about $400,000 combined, with $5.4 million in cuts nationwide, the Billings Gazette reported.

The department proposed determining qualification based on census data rather than the number of students who qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches. The switch was to meet legal requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The delay of those changes was confirmed by Democratic state Sen. Jon Tester and Republican state Sen. Steve Daines.

“We strongly encourage you to rescind this new interpretation and to work with Congress to serve students in rural communities,” the senators and 20 agreeing colleagues said in a letter Wednesday to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The delay does not rescind the department’s position but is intended to give states more flexibility if they had not planned for funding changes, said members of Bloomberg Government, a government policy and contracting website. They added that the delays are effectively a one-year waiver.

The program would have provided money to improve student achievement at school districts that do not have the resources to compete for other federal grants. It was scheduled to be awarded in July.

“I’m glad to see the Department of Education listen to our requests and delay the decision that would result in Montana’s low income rural schools losing almost half a million dollars,” Daines said.

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