Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that this year’s omnibus spending bill increases funding for the Impact Aid Program by $86 million, bringing total funding for the program to $1.4 billion. The Impact Aid Program is a federal program designed to supplement school budgets in districts that are on a large portion of federally-owned, nontaxable land, such as military bases and Native American reservations. Several districts in New York, including some schools in the North Country around Fort Drum, rely on this funding in order to support educational development at schools. The $86 million increase represents the largest federal increase in funds for the program in over a decade.
“Children who attend schools affected by federal activity, such as students who come from military families or live on Native American lands, rely on the Impact Aid Program to gain equal access to the same educational opportunities as other children,” said Senator Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “This increase in funding for Impact Aid is crucial to ensuring that these schools can retain highly qualified teachers and have access to the technology they need to provide a quality education for their students. I was proud to fight for this funding to be included in this year’s spending package, and I will continue working with my colleagues in the Senate to help schools and military communities in New York and across the country have the resources necessary to provide students with a good education.”
Established in 1950, the Impact Aid Program is a major general aid source for over 1,300 school districts nationwide, or almost 10 percent of all districts. For some school districts, Impact Aid supplies as much as 75 percent of the local education operating budget. Impact Aid funds may be used at the schools’ discretion, as long as it is in accordance with local and state requirements, and funding helps to ensure that students, primarily children of military families, and school faculty have the resources they need. Examples of expenditures may include teacher salaries, the purchasing of textbooks and equipment, or expansion projects.
Gillibrand led a bipartisan letter with Senator Inhofe (R-OK) and 36 Senate colleagues advocating for full support for Impact Aid in the Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations package.
The text of Gillibrand’s letter is available here and below:
The Honorable Roy Blunt
Subcommittee on L-HHS-ED
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
The Honorable Patty Murray
Member Subcommittee on L-HHS-ED
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:
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.
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.