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Congressmen Say Impact-Aid Cuts Could Result in School Closings

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Washington--In separate House subcommittee meetings last week 30 Congressmen and representatives of three "federally impacted" school districts testified in favor of partial or full restoration of federal impact-aid funds.

President Reagan has proposed cutting the program to $286 million in 1983, down from $446 in 1982 and $757 million in 1981. This is a cut from 1981 to 1983 of 62 percent.

Speaking before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, Thomas A. Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota, said that the proposed cuts, if passed, would probably close several schools in his state in the fall.

Forty-nine schools in South Dakota receive impact aid, mostly because of the presence of Indian land. "In urban areas, school closings are common," Mr. Daschle said, "but in rural areas like South Dakota, you cannot simply send a child across town to a different school."

Impact aid goes to school districts in which federal facilities--such as military bases, land used for government offices, Indian land, and public low-rent housing projects--are located. These facilities are exempt from local taxes, but their residents use local schools.

Two basic types of impact-aid payments are made: "A" payments for children of parents who both live and work on tax-exempt federal property and "B" payments for children of parents who live or work on such property.

Under the President's plan, 1983 payments would be made to districts with 20 percent or more "A" children, at 80 percent of 1982 levels. Category "B" payments would be eliminated.

Mr. Daschle recommended a return to 1981 funding levels for schools for which impact aid "represents a substantial portion of the school budget."

The day before he testified, a South Dakota school superintendent from one such district told the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education that if the proposed cuts go through, "continued operation of my district beyond 1982-83 would be doubtful."

Glenn Barnes, superintendent of the Todd County Schools in Mission, S.D., said that two-thirds of the land in his district is tax-exempt and that federal impact aid makes up 56 percent of the district's general-fund budget. He called for a return to "1981 entitlements, adjusted for inflation."

David Fish, director of special projects for the San Diego Unified School District, said his district houses 15 military installations and 22 percent of Pacific Fleet. In 1979, he said, the district received $13.9 million in impact aid; in 1981, $6.7 million.

"Our community does not get wealthy from the federal government," he argued before the subcommittee. "Many of these people do not pay income taxes there. They purchase their goods at a base PX, and they go to a Navy hospital. We find it rather incongruous that in Washington, impact aid is considered compensatory. We consider that we provide a service that must be paid for."

Harold J. Daub, a Republican from Nebraska who also testified before the Labor subcommittee, has introduced a resolution to transfer responsibility for impact aid in support of military families to the Department of Defense. According to a spokesman in his office, the resolution is a way of "testing the waters" about the feasibility in the House of such a move.

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