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Virginia District Drops Military-Tuition Plan

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Fairfax County, Va., school officials have dropped their plans to charge tuition for military dependents at a military base within the district, for this year at least, because the U.S. Department of Education has given them most of the federal impact aid they demanded for the 1981-82 school year.

The district received last week the first payment in the total $3.5 million in impact aid funds it will be paid by the government.

The amount is $1.4 million less than the district sought, but enough to rule out tuition fees for this year.

The district received $8.4 million in impact aid last year.

Impact aid in Fairfax County is used primarily to offset the cost of educating the 1,570 children whose families live on the Fort Belvoir base and do not pay local property taxes. Under Virginia law, a district may charge tuition if impact-aid funding falls below 50 percent of the cost of educating such children.

Long Battle Ended

The agreement ends a long legal battle between the district and the Justice Department over the legality of the district's plans to charge tuition.

In October, the Justice Department filed suit against the Fairfax district.

The issues in the suit--that tuition charges would violate a federal law prohibiting the taxation of military families in more than one state and that such fees would violate the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution--are now moot. (An assurance of federal aid for York County, Va., recently led to resolution of a similar Justice Department suit.)

The Virginia State Board of Education is still evaluating a proposal by the Fairfax board to designate the Fort Belvoir base an independent school district responsible for its own financial affairs.

Under the proposal, the state board would redraw the boundaries of school districts in Fairfax County to separate Fort Belvoir from the Fairfax system.

A spokesman for Fairfax County said the district will draw on its $2.5-million "contingency fund to compensate for this year's cut," but noted that there may be further "problems" if the Administration's plans for 1983-84 impact-aid funding go through.

In his 1983 budget, President Reagan is proposing to pay only for "A" category students (those whose parents live and work on federal property) at approximately 80 percent of their 1982 entitlement, for a total funding of $275 million.

The proposal would eliminate payments next year to category "B" students--those whose parents live or work on federal property.

According to a spokesman for the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, the basic issue--whether the federal government has a responsibility to pay the cost of educating federally dependent children--is not dead.

Two other states, North Carolina and Texas, already have legislation that would allow some form of compensation for such children, and similar bills are expected in other states, said James W. Maza, chief lobbyist for the association.

In Hawaii, for example, a bill now being studied in the Senate Education Committee would allow districts that do not receive impact aid to levy tuition charges upon military families within their boundaries.--A.H.

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