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Federal grants are the main source of drug-education and prevention funding in more than half of the nation's rural school districts, the General Accounting Office has found.

According to a C.A.O. report, which was done at the request of Representative William H. Natcher of Kentucky, chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services, and education, two-thirds of rural districts that receive federal drug-free school grants say the money covers more than half of their total drug-education program.

Since 1986, the Education Department has distributed $1.1 billion to states under the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. States receive funds on the basis of their school-age population and the number of those living in poverty.

The report found that the median Drug-Free School grant in the 211 rural districts surveyed was $5,200, although federal funding ranged from $350 to $127,000.

The report found that federal aid was the catalyst some communities needed to begin offering drug education.

About one-fourth of the grant recipients said they had no formal program before they began to receive the federal money.

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