Why Impact Aid Matters? A Superintendent’s View on Funding for Military Kids
Military families with kids in public school know the drill: sometime during the first two or three months of the school year, a form will appear in their child’s backpack or homework folder – the Impact Aid form. The form will include questions about your family’s connection to the military, and will usually be accompanied by a request from the school to complete and return it as soon as possible. Understandably, this leaves many military families confused.
What is Impact Aid and why do schools need this information? And what do they do with all the forms?
To get answers, we went to the experts – superintendents of school districts serving large numbers of military-connected kids. We reached out to Debbie LeBeau of Clover Park School District (Joint Base Lewis-McCord) and Corbin Witt of Geary County Schools (Fort Riley) and asked them to explain what Impact Aid is, why it’s important to their districts, and what they do with all those forms.
What is Impact Aid? Why is it important to your district?
Debbie LeBeau (Clover Park School District): Impact Aid is funding districts receive from the federal government to offset the property tax dollars that would have been collected if the federal property in our district could be taxed. Joint Base Lewis McCord is located in Lakewood, Washington, within the Clover Park School District boundaries. Families who live on the base do not pay taxes, nor does the federal government pay taxes on the property occupied by the Air Force and Army. About 40 % of our students are connected to the federal government.
Corbin Witt (Geary County Schools): [My district] is honored to have the opportunity to serve the brave men and women of the Fort Riley Army Base that risk their lives to protect our freedoms. The least we can do is ensure that our families don’t have to worry about the education and well-being of their children while they are serving our country. The Impact Aid received by [Geary County Schools] enables us to keep class sizes low, meet the unique needs of military children, supports the enhanced costs associated with increased mobility of students and teaching staff and is used in the day to day operational costs of the district.
How does your district use the funding it receives from Impact Aid?
Debbie LeBeau: Clover Park School District uses Impact Aid funds just as if they were local levy dollars. We budget the funds as needed to supplement state and federal funding allocations for staffing (teachers, counselors, nurses, support staff and administrators), materials, supplies, operating costs, transportation, maintenance, technology and instructional materials.
How do you collect the information needed to apply for Impact Aid?
Corbin Witt: We send the federal form home to parents and ask they fill it out and send it back to school with their child. We send the forms home with students. If parents have multiple children, we send the forms in one packet with the elementary child. We find that parents tend to check elementary children’s backpack for school materials more than upper age students. The school district must collect data and the parent or guardian’s signature on the federal form. If the parent or guardian does not complete the form the school district may not count the child unless the military verifies the students’ eligibility. After this process is complete, the school district will submit an online application to the U.S. Department of Education.
What happens to the forms that families turn in? How do you safeguard families’ personal information?
Debbie LeBeau: Military family forms are saved for 6 years after final payment from the federal government. The forms are boxed up, labeled and stored in a locked room here in our central office records storage.
Corbin Witt: Once the parents fill out the forms they are delivered to the district office and entered into the school district student data system. The forms are stored securely at the district office for five years, per federal requirements, and then destroyed.
Is there anything else families should know about the Impact Aid program?
Corbin Witt: Families should know that if they don’t complete the federal form and return it to the district, the district does not get the Impact Aid funding that could be used to provide enhanced services for their children. Impact Aid is a vital component of meeting the needs of military children and we need every family to help ensure Congress appropriates the funding for the program each year. Since it is not forward funded, we need to make sure our federal legislators understand the importance of supporting the funding of Impact Aid each and every year.
Do you have more questions about the Impact Aid program? Let us know in the comments?
Posted September 21, 2016