Impact-Aid Lobby Called Solid, Despite Rumors of Break Up

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Washington--Some 175 members of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (nafis) gathered here last week amid rumors that half the group's members would act to transfer responsibility for impact aid from the Education Department to the Department of Defense.

The rumors to that effect, which created uncertainty at the meeting, were generated by a telegram from the National Education Association (nea) to its 50 state chapters and "20 priority districts" claiming that schools on military bases (which comprise half the nafis membership) would seek the transfer.

'Jumped the Gun'

Donald J. Clark, a lobbyist for the group, explained that the telegram stemmed from a misunderstanding.

"A school district jumped the gun and went to an nea legislative meeting in San Antonio and asked for a resolution recommending that the military districts be transferred to Defense," he said.

"nea reacted to that, and we are trying to convey to them that this organization did not sponsor such a move. Our preference is to stay in the Department of Education and be funded."

In the Administration's proposal for the dismantling of the Education Department, the responsibilities for impact aid--which currently rest in one place in the department--would be dispersed to the Defense Department (for schools on military bases), to the Department of Interior (for schools on Indian reservations), and to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (for low-rent housing projects).

The impact-aid program provides money to reimburse school districts in localities that include federal facilities that limit local tax revenues. Such areas include military bases, land used for government offices, Indian land, and public low-rent housing projects.

The impact-aid association lobbies for 1,000 of the 4,000 school districts that currently receive impact-aid payments from the federal government.

Cuts Proposed

President Reagan has proposed cutting the program to $283 million in 1983, from $427 million in 1982.

The group passed a resolution at last week's meeting stating that the priority of the organization is to remain in the Education Department with "adequate funding." Absent that, Mr. Clark said, the resolution allows the Washington office of the organization "to study the options open to it by Defense, Interior, and hud."

The association's board is conferring on the meaning of "adequate funding," he said.

Some members of the impact-aid lobby made it clear at the meeting that they do not want the dispersal to different departments to occur.

Indian-school districts, many of which are also members of the National Congress of American Indians (ncai), want the impact-aid responsibilities to remain under one federal department's control.

"The tribes do not want to see the impact-aid lobby split or weakened," said William L. Leap, education coordinator for ncai. "The prevailing attitude among the military-based schools seems to be that they don't care where the money comes from, they want the money."

Congressional committee meetings on the President's proposal will not be held until late April, Mr. Clark said. Senator Larry Pressler, Republican of South Dakota, has introduced a concurrent resolution to restore impact aid funds to their 1980 levels, he added.--A.H.

Vol. 01, Issue 28

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