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Legislators Call for Continued Funding for Federal Impact Aid Program

June 7, 2017, 11:35 AM HST
* Updated June 7, 11:36 AM
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Sens. Mazie K. Hirono and Brian Schatz urged federal appropriators in a bipartisan letter to increase federal funding for the Impact Aid Program in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

“Impact Aid funds a range of programs, including efforts to retain highly qualified teachers, adequate technology, facilities renovation and maintenance of transportation fleets,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “For many districts, this funding represents the very lifeblood that allows their school system to operate. The potential of long-term funding stagnation or program cuts is of serious concern given the changing needs of the program and the students these districts serve. Impact Aid is not only the federal government’s obligation, but also a tax relief program for local communities.”

The Impact Aid program provides Hawai‘i funding to help finance the education of military-connected children. The average cost to educate a student in Hawai‘i is approximately $12,000 with the average reimbursement totaling only 15% of the total cost. A decrease in this support would have crippling effects on the programs, courses, and other resources that are offered throughout Hawai‘i.

Joining Sens. Hirono and Schatz were Senators James Inhofe (R-OK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Michael Rounds (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), James Risch (R-ID), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Thune (R-SD), Jack Reed (D-RI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

The full text of the Senators’ letter follows:

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Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:

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We urge you to recognize the importance of the federal Impact Aid Program as you set the Appropriation Subcommittee’s funding priorities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. We fully recognize the fiscal restraint that will govern the Subcommittee’s actions this year, but we request strong and continued funding for all line items of the Impact Aid Program, including Basic Support and Federal Properties, to ensure all federally connected school districts can provide a quality education.

Impact Aid was created in 1950 because Congress recognized the Federal Government needed to accept responsibility – in areas impacted by a federal presence – by partnering with local taxpayers to help meet the local responsibility of financing public education. Impact Aid provides a payment to local school districts for lost revenue that is a result of tax-exempt federal property and actions that have increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children. The program provides direct, flexible funding to over 1,200 school districts. Impact Aid funds a range of programs, including efforts to retain highly qualified teachers, adequate technology, facilities renovation, and maintenance of transportation fleets. For many districts, this funding represents the very lifeblood that allows their school system to operate.

Congress should prioritize Basic Support and ensure appropriate funding. For districts enrolling military children, the ability to address both the academic and emotional needs of these students must be maintained. Education is a quality-of-life issue for military families, and it is our firm belief that as military personnel defend our country we must not forget or ignore the children they leave behind.

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The needs of districts enrolling children who live on Indian Lands – of which over 93 percent are Native American – must not be overlooked. These districts strive to find creative ways to integrate curriculum and best practices to prepare students for success. Often, these school districts are located in rural areas with few taxpayers and where administrators double as bus drivers, teachers, and coaches. These dollars provide a foundational education program for all students; many schools would close their doors without the support of Impact Aid.

Federal Properties school districts depend on Impact Aid due to a limited local tax base caused by the presence of certain federal land in their districts, including national parks and grasslands, national laboratories, Army Corps of Engineering projects, and property that encompasses the military academies. In some of these communities, the Federal Government is the largest landowner, which significantly diminishes a school district’s revenue base. Congress should prioritize this funding stream to reflect the addition of eligible Federal Properties school districts.

We realize the Subcommittee will be working under significant budget constraints, but we urge you to support strong and continued funding for the entire Impact Aid Program. The potential of long-term funding stagnation or program cuts is of serious concern given the changing needs of the program and the students these districts serve. Impact Aid is not only the Federal Government’s obligation, but also a tax relief program for local communities. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of our request.

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