O'Halleran Introduces Bill to Fund Rural School Repairs
WASHINGTON – Last week, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) introduced H.R. 6830, the Impact Aid Infrastructure Act, to fund the construction of critical Impact Aid school projects and address the significant backlog communities are facing.
“In communities throughout rural Arizona and across the country, students are going to school every morning and sitting in condemned school buildings in desperate need of repair,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “Every child in every corner of America deserves a safe environment in which they can learn and grow, but in the most rural areas that is not the reality. The Impact Aid Infrastructure Act will give school districts which rely on Impact Aid funding the chance to improve their facilities and ensure students are not exposed to dangerous conditions like mold, animal infestation, or substandard construction.”
H.R. 6830 authorizes a one-time infusion of $1,000,000,000 – to be expended over three years – for ESEA Section 7007 Impact Aid Construction. It will be distributed through:
- 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.
School districts may 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 because of the federal government’s presence. This, in turn, makes it more challenging for these school districts to generate local revenues for school construction or to issue a bond. In the more extreme cases, these school districts have no taxpayers or no practical capacity to issue bonds due to limited assessed property value.
“The education of our children should be one of our top priorities. An educated, skilled workforce will drive rural economic development and improve the livelihood of all Americans,” continued O’Halleran. “Investing in the next generation of American workers is crucial for our economy, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work on innovative solutions that put our students first.”