Time for Impact Aid is Now
In the Coronado Eagle & Journal October 16-22
Since its inception in 1950, federal Impact Aid has been a significant source of funding for school districts that serve the children of active duty service members. In communities like Coronado, local school districts include federal installations and educate military children. But those federal facilities don’t pay property taxes. That creates a mismatch in these communities between school attendance and local property tax revenues. These school districts rely on Impact Aid as a way to build more classrooms and hire enough teachers to fill them, keep class sizes down, and provide ancillary staff to accommodate the challenges that a child with a deployed parent faces.
Today, Impact Aid to school districts is one of the many programs facing cuts because of Washington DC’s fiscal failures. Last year, Congress imposed the across-the-board cuts known as the sequester. Now the government is shut down.
In Coronado Unified School District, a recipient of large amounts of Impact Aid funding, $200,000 was cut from Impact Aid just this year because of sequestration. While the district was able to cover that cut by using Internal Reserve funds, that is not a choice they should be forced to make. Next year the district will likely face a $500,000 shortfall from expected Impact Aid funding. This is unacceptable. Instead of supporting military families, and giving our servicemembers peace of mind during their deployments, Congress’ inability to negotiate a reasonable budget solution is leaving them high and dry.
Shouldn’t Congress be keeping the promises made to support communities that our military families call home? Providing for military families must continue to be a top tier priority; it cannot be waylaid into the backseat because members of Congress can’t act like adults and negotiate their differences.
Recently, I saw a ‘Deployment Handbook’ put together by a 9-year-old student at Silver Strand Elementary, where more than 85% of students are military-connected. In it, she had collected the thoughts and stories from her classmates ranging in age from 6 to 11 on what life is like for them before, during, and after a parent is deployed. The emotional depth at such a young age was striking.
Ranging from the sadness and frustration before a deployment, to the loneliness and fear that comes during, and the excitement and anticipation after the return, the stories in the handbook paint a vivid picture of just how important teachers and counselors are as they channel the energy and emotion of military-connected children. Cutting Impact Act is precisely the wrong thing to be doing at a time when we continue to ask so much of our servicemembers and their families.
In addition to speaking out against the sequester cuts, which are harming our national readiness and were not done with the mission in mind, I called for a full funding of Impact Aid programs during the budget process in April. I know that if Congress got its act together and passed a budget for the country, rather than short-term funding fixes, we could agree to fully fund a program as integral to community development as Impact Aid.
It’s time that we started making smart investments in education, not across-the board cuts. We need to move from crisis-to-crisis funding to real budgeting around our national priorities. Our servicemembers deserve to know that when they sacrifice for our country, we will continue to support their families with the best education possible for their children.
See the article in print in the Eagle & Journal below: