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Public Statements

Introducing the Fair Funding for Schools Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

INTRODUCING THE FAIR FUNDING FOR SCHOOLS ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - May 06, 2009)


* Ms. HIRONO. Madam Speaker, I rise today to reintroduce the Fair Funding for Schools Act, which reauthorizes and improves the Impact Aid program. Impact Aid benefits millions of American students attending elementary and secondary schools in every state in the country. Through this program, the federal government does the right thing by reimbursing local school districts for lost tax revenue due to federal lands within the borders of their districts and the number of military-connected students in the district.

* The majority of public school funding in America comes from local property taxes. Unfortunately, this vital funding stream is drastically reduced in school districts where the federal government controls part of the land in the district. For instance, the many U.S. military bases located in Hawaii take up a vast amount of space and house large populations, but these bases do not generate local property taxes. In other states, large national parks and forests, federal prisons, and Indian lands all similarly decrease local property tax revenue. Left uncorrected, this loss of revenue would leave the children living in these areas with a second class education, funded by substantially fewer dollars than their peers living in areas with no federally impacted land.

* In 1950, Congress recognized the need to address this inequity and created Impact Aid, a program by which we provide additional federal dollars to school districts feeling this financial strain.

* Impact Aid is one of the most effective programs run by the Department of Education because it sends money directly to local school districts with very few strings attached. Just like the property tax revenue it replaces, Impact Aid dollars can be used to fund the most essential needs identified by the school district--textbooks, computers, utilities, and salaries, for instance. Many districts rely heavily on this money, and without it their students would be shortchanged. Therefore, we must reauthorize this program.

* Even great programs need to be tweaked every so often, and this Fair Funding for Schools Act makes necessary changes in Impact Aid. The bill addresses the effects of military base realignment and troop redeployment by allowing Impact Aid payments to be calculated using current student counts instead of prior year data. This change will allow districts receiving an influx of new military families to receive their Impact Aid dollars in a timely manner.

* The Impact Aid law also has become overly complicated during its 59-year history. This bill simplifies the law by eliminating some outdated provisions that added unnecessary complications. It also maintains the program's traditional focus on need, whereby payments to school districts are calculated based on the percentage of the budget lost due to federal actions and on the number of federally connected children in a district.

* Madam Speaker, this is a vitally important bill for Hawaii and for many school districts across the country. The students most impacted are often from families serving in our military. Given the sacrifices we ask of military families, they deserve nothing less than the best education for their children. This bill will take us in that direction, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.

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