- Jerrod Wheeler, superintendent of Knob Noster Public Schools in Missouri, shares his concerns about the impact that cuts to the federal Impact Aid program will have on the 1,000 students in his district whose parents serve at the Whiteman Air Force Base in this District Administration report.
- Because federal and Native American lands are tax exempt, school districts in these areas are deprived of tax-based sources of revenue, an issue that the Impact Aid program was designed to help correct.
- Wheeler feels that the program is working well in its current form and has bi-partisan support. He worries that proposals to divert this funding will prove to be short-sighted and will reduce educational opportunities for students who are often in the greatest need of additional support.
The Impact Aid program was established in 1950 as a major source of aid for school districts that have less access to other sources of tax-based revenues. According to New America, in 2014, the program impacted 1,151 — or about 8% -- of school districts nationwide. For some of these districts, Impact Aid accounted for as much as 75% of their local education operating budget through five types of funding: basic support payments, payments for property, disability payments, Department of Defense supplemental Impact Aid payments, and construction payments.
The current 2019 administrative budget request for Impact Aid affects slightly fewer school districts. The proposal states that “the 2019 request level would provide significant support for the education of more than 800,000 federally connected children in almost 1,100 school districts while maintaining the fiscal discipline required to meet the President’s overall goal of increasing support for national security and public safety without adding to the Federal budget deficit.” The proposal justifies the budget cuts, which would primarily affect payments for property and basic support payments by saying “The Administration believes that the majority of LEAs receiving assistance under this program have now had sufficient time—more than 60 years—to adjust to the removal of the property from their tax rolls.”
According to Military One Click, the proposal could mean cuts of more than $67 million in federal aid and may “lead to staff and supply shortages, as well as reduction in extracurricular activities and athletics.” This is not the first time funding to the program has been slashed. During the sequestration period in the Obama administration, the program also took hits and some of those cuts to certain areas of the program are restored under the current budget. However, the fate of the budget remains to be seen, as many of President Trump’s proposed cuts have failed to win support so far. For school districts that will be impacted, the issue warrants close attention.