When Congress pulls budget shenanigans, Impact Aid suffers more than just about any other federal K-12 education program. But, in the midst of all the fiscal drama this year, Impact Aid districts are finally getting some good news: A good chunk of the money they’re owed this year will arrive early.
Some background: Most K-12 programs get their federal money over the summer, or at the start of the school year, but Impact Aid payments are made in real-time, throughout the year. That money helps more than 1,200 districts make up for tax revenue lost because of a federal presense, such as a military base or Native American reservation nearby. Impact Aid programs were on thin ice during the shutdown, and seem to have bourne the brunt of the sequester cuts.
And there’s more uncertainty ahead—Congress only financed the budget through mid-January. It didn’t set specific spending levels for programs—it just exteneded funding for all programs at last years levels. Congress may still work out a broader budget, meaning that payments could be further delayed.
The good news: Impact Aid disricts will get roughly a third of their money early this year, the U.S. Department of Education told the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools said Wednesday. Impact Aid was financed at more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2013 (which just wrapped up on Sept. 30.) The department is doling out $312 million for basic support payments (the biggest pot by far, financing the most districts), $15 million for districts that only receive Impact Aid because of a federal property nearby and don’t neccessarily educate federally-connected students (i.e. those whose parents work at a nearby military base), and $25 million for students in special education.
The money will be particularly helpful for districts that were on the brink of having to make some difficult choices, since Impact Aid money was hung up during the government shutdown.
Needless to say, NAFIS is pretty happy with this development.
“This news and the rate at which the Department has been able to get out these payments to the most needy of school districts impacted by a federal presence came just in the nick of time. Many of these districts would have faced disastrous consequences as early as the end of this month without this money,” said John Forkenbrock, the executive director, in a statement.