U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today praised the inclusion of a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017 that fixes statutory language negatively affecting the Impact Aid program, which provides funds to eligible public schools in all 50 states.
“Impact Aid is a critical program to South Dakota, which is why I want to thank my colleagues, especially Sen. Inhofe who agreed to offer this amendment, for working with me over the last few weeks as we negotiated this important bipartisan fix,” said Thune. “Without action, dozens of South Dakota schools could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in deep funding cuts. For the schools across our state and the students who depend on them, I’m glad this issue is one step closer to being resolved.”
“Impact Aid is a crucial program for our local schools that are impacted from the loss of local tax revenue due to the presence of military bases,” said Inhofe. “In Oklahoma, Impact Aid funding has helped to provide education for thousands of military children whose parents are stationed at one of our five installations. For many years, I have fought to protect Impact Aid funding levels in the National Defense Authorization Act despite historic defense budget cuts during the Obama administration. This year, I joined Sen. John Thune to also address the distribution of aid for schools that are categorized as ‘Heavily Impacted.’ With our provision, Oklahoma’s schools will be protected from a $450,000 cut in Impact Aid funding. We appreciate our colleagues on the HELP Committee and Sens. Cornyn and Cruz for supporting our fix to the program.”
Impact Aid was most recently reauthorized in December 2015, in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Inhofe amendment included in the NDAA corrects an ESSA drafting error that, if left unresolved, would have inadvertently disqualified some districts from the program whose boundaries are within the perimeter of a military installation. This language also delays a provision in ESSA related to the qualification formula for the heavily impacted section of the program to provide additional time to collect data on the effects on participating school districts. Lastly, the amendment modifies the program to ensure annual payments to one district experiencing demographic changes are not higher than Congress intended. Had this gone unchanged, over 1,000 school districts across the country would have experienced substantial, unexpected cuts in funding. Because of the Inhofe amendment, Oklahoma and South Dakota will be protected from cuts of $450,000 and $700,000, respectively, in fiscal year 2016.