Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester announced today critical funding for more than 70 school districts statewide that rely on the Department of Education's Impact Aid program. The news ensures that the Department of Education will continue allocating payments to Montana rural schools that rely on Federal Impact Aid funding.
"Investing in education is the best choice we can make in Montana. Today's decision delivers greater certainty to our community, our teachers, and ultimately, our students." said Baucus and Tester. "We will continue fighting for the Impact Aid program to be administered at full capacity so Montana's students can prosper."
"On behalf of the Indian Impact Schools of Montana, the on-going efforts and support of both Senator Baucus and Tester, Montana schools received the good news that our basic support payments (BSP) will be increased to approximately 70% under the continuing resolution. Our schools had braced to receive only a 45% BSP payment, so this is truly wonderful news that eases some of the fiscal constraints our schools had planned for," said Voyd St. Pierre, school board member for Rocky Boy school district and President of Indian Impact Schools of Montana.
Without this announcement, Montana Impact Aid schools faced significant uncertainty in the upcoming school year's budget; limiting resources available for schools to support operations and teachers' salaries. Baucus recently wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, expressing concern for the proposed initial allocations for the Federal Impact Aid program and urged the Secretary to secure much-needed funding for rural schools. The bipartisan letter, co-signed by over twenty senators, pushed for maximum amount of payouts to be paid to recipient school districts in an efficient matter. The Department of Education guaranteed these requests will be met with today's announcement.
The Impact Aid program is the oldest federal education program, created in 1950 to provide a payment in lieu of taxes to local school districts for lost tax revenue that is a result of tax-exempt federal property. The program is tied to the number of children residing on or near federal property. Nationally, the program provides direct, flexible funding to over 1,300 school districts. Impact Aid funds a range of programs, including programs to retain highly qualified teachers, adequate technology, and facilities renovation. Each year, Montana receives over $40 million in Impact Aid funding, distributed to over 70 school districts.