DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2004CONTINUED
Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, our amendment adds $187 million to the Impact Aid Program. If it is accepted, that will only put us at two-thirds funding. It is important to understand what this is because it seems as if we have come back every year since 1997 and had some success increasing the percentage of a program that was put on the books in the 1950s.
First, I agree with most everything the Senator from New Hampshire stated. When you come up with something like this, you have to look at it in the context of fairness and the overall budget. In this case, a program came along in the 1950s that replenishes money that was to go to our schools, that the Government has taken away from our schools. It is as simple as that. They federalize landperhaps in conjunction with an Army post or Indian lands or in conjunction with a military base of some kindand when that happens, that takes the land off of the tax base. So the money that would have gone from that tax base to the schools is no longer there. However, the kids still have to be educated.
In the wisdom of Congress in the 1950s they said: It is not fair. We will have to at least treat these kids the same as other kids have been treated.
There is an insatiable propensity for politicians to take from programs and nobody will notice. This program started in the 1950s. It was fully funded. It was fully funded up to 1969. In 1969, they started dropping down. In 1996, it was down to 50 percent. In other words, money that would have been there for the benefit of the children being educated, only 50 percent was getting to the kids.
In my State of Oklahoma, in Lawton, since 1966 the impact aid for Fort Sill, which is located adjacent to Lawton, OK, has dropped substantially, down to one-half in 1996 compared to 1969. This amendment would slowly bring this up to the point where we would be at two-thirds funding.
Let me describe what has happened since 1996. In 1996, we were at 50-percent funding. Until 1969, we were 100 percent, and people left the program alone. But in 1969 that changed and it went to 50-percent funding. We have been successful since then, and I commend my friend, the Senator from North Dakota. We do not always agree on issues. We have disagreed on national missile defense. We have disagreed on AmeriCorps and many other issues. This issue is fairness, an issue on which conservatives, liberals, Republicans, and Democrats can agree.
Due to our efforts primarily, it has gone up from 50-percent funding in 1996 to 51 percent the next year, 57 percent the next year, 58 percent 2 years later and, if adopted, it will go up to two-thirds. The kids will still not be treated fairly, nor will the school districts. They still will suffer from the fact that the land went off the tax base. However, at least we are on the right trend line, and we should, in another 3 or 4 years, get to 100-percent funding.
I will relentlessly pursue this in any way we have to in order to get to that point.
Fort Towson public schools in southeastern Oklahoma will gain $51,000 of impact aid if fully funded. This would bring it only to two-thirds funding. As a result, they are having serious problems in these school districts.
Oklahoma is not that much different from other States. In the State of North Carolina, my information is that North Carolina actually has more impacted students than the State of Oklahoma. I don't know where North Dakota stands; I am sure we will hear in a moment. However, it is a fairness issue. Oklahoma is not treated more unfairly than any other State but equally unfairly. The students are not getting the education they need because of one thing, and that is they have had the federalized land taken off their tax base.
I join my friend from North Dakota in trying to pass this amendment. In doing this, a lot of kids throughout America will be treated more fairly. Down the road, in 5, 6, or 7 years we will find this program will be 100-percent funded.
I thank the Senator from North Dakota for the time he has given me and assure him I join him fully in getting this amendment passed for the kids of Oklahoma, North Dakota, and throughout the United States.