O’Halleran Re-introduces Legislation to Fund Rural School Repairs
WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) re-introduced his Impact Aid Infrastructure Act—legislation to fund the construction of critical Impact Aid school projects and address the significant backlog rural, tribal, and underserved communities are facing.
“In far too many communities in rural Arizona, students attend class in condemned school buildings in desperate need of repair,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “As we move toward safe, in-person school re-openings, every child in our country deserves a safe environment in which they can learn and grow. My bill will give school districts which rely on Impact Aid funding the funding they need to improve facilities and ensure students are not exposed to dangerous conditions that impede learning.”
“Alaska is home to countless rural students whose schools rely on federal Impact Aid to maintain their facilities, pay their teachers, and purchase goods like textbooks, computers, and other vital educational tools," said Rep. Young. "As a former teacher, I know that this funding is integral to student learning. It is critical that the Impact Aid program is delivering results for schools across our state and in Alaska Native communities. I am proud to join my friend, Congressman Tom O’Halleran, on legislation to bolster the Impact Aid program and provide the support necessary for our schools to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of students and faculty.”
The legislation would authorize a one-time time infusion of $1,000,000,000 – to be expended over three years – for ESEA Section 7007 Impact Aid Construction via:
- Formula Grants – 40 percent of the funds would be distributed in the form of formula grants, based on the regular distribution criteria in statute, to the most federally impacted school districts.
- Competitive Grants – 60 percent of funds would be distributed in the form of competitive emergency and modernization grants. The eligibility criteria are broader than the regular program – and focus on the availability of assessed value of taxable property – to account for the additional funding. Emergency grants, which are the priority, must be used to repair, renovate, or alter a facility to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of students and school personnel.
The federal government has obligations to address the facilities of federally impacted school districts – those that receive Impact Aid as a tax replacement because of the presence of nontaxable federal properties, including Native American reservations and military installations. Often there is limited taxable property and few taxpayers in these school districts because of the federal government’s presence, making it challenging to generate local revenues for school construction or to issue a bond. In more extreme cases, these school districts have no taxpayers or no practical capacity to issue bonds due to limited assessed property value. Additionally, the current annual Impact Aid Construction appropriation falls short of addressing the significant backlog of school facilities needs of federally impacted school districts.