The House Committee on Education and Workforce today passed H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which is an important step forward for students, families, and our K-12 schools. This important legislation includes two critical provisions offered by Congressman Doc Hastings last Congress to reform the Impact Aid program so that it better serves federally impacted schools in Central Washington and throughout the nation.
First, this bill includes language from H.R. 3896, which was introduced by Hastings last year to ensure that the most federally impacted school districts are eligible to apply for emergency assistance for school construction projects. Specifically, this language extends eligibility for emergency and modernization construction grants to school districts where at least 10 percent of property is non-taxable because of federal land ownership.
"Over 33 percent of Central Washington is federally owned, and I believe that the federal government has an obligation to ensure that this does not negatively impact our students' education," said Hastings. "I appreciate Chairman Kline's willingness to uphold the federal government's responsibility to these students by ensuring that school districts that are unable to secure a construction bond due to the impact of federal land ownership are eligible to compete for these grants."
Second, the Student Success Act makes permanent a provision included in the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act to ensure eligible Impact Aid school districts receive payment of federal dollars in a timely manner. Originally introduced as H.R. 2094 in 2011 by Representatives Rick Larsen (WA-02) and Hastings (WA-04), this bipartisan provision would address chronic late payments through the Impact Aid program. Too often, school districts wait more than three years after the initial award to receive the full funding by the Department of Education. This proposal would require the Department of Education to allocate the full amount of Impact Aid funding due to school districts no later than two years after Impact Aid funding was appropriated.
"I have heard from many Impact Aid school districts in Central Washington that depend on Impact Aid payments for things as basic as paying teachers and providing basic educational programs," said Hastings. "I am pleased that Chairman Kline has included this provision to hold the Department of Education accountable for distributing these funds in a timely manner."
Neither of Hastings' provisions increases federal spending. The Student Success Act now advances to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
Impact Aid was established in 1950 to compensate school districts for the substantial financial burden resulting from the loss of tax revenue due to federal land ownership and federally impacted students. There are over 1,300 federally impacted school districts across the country serving 15 million students. In Washington's fourth district, Grand Coulee Dam, Granger, Kennewick, Mabton, Mt. Adams, Quincy, Richland, Sunnyside, Toppenish, and Wapato school districts are affected by the Impact Aid program.