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home : opinions : opinions June 24, 2016

2/12/2013 2:12:00 PM
Letter: GCS singled out for the wrong reason
Sharyl Allen
Grand Canyon School Superintendent

To the editor,

According to a recent U.S. Department of Education memo - sequestration - the federal fiscal belt-tightening mechanism has been delayed until March 2013 - but "there is no reason to believe that sequestration will affect funding for the 2012-13 school year."

One might believe, based on this memo, that education has dodged a bullet for another year and that there is no need to worry about the storied massive cuts to school districts. However, what most officials are sweeping under the rug is that sequestration will severely slash school district budgets for federally impacted schools - those districts that receive federal Impact Aid, like Grand Canyon Unified School District (GCUSD), and the cuts will be immediately felt in this school year.

Because Impact Aid, a federal program that provides an "in-lieu of tax" payment to school districts impacted by a federal presence, is the only federal education program that is current-year-funded (meaning the funds authorized by Congress in one year are for the same school year), federally impacted schools will feel the cuts the day sequestration takes effect. Should Congress allow sequestration to trigger, federally impacted schools would see an immediate cut of 8-10 percent. That equates to about $100 million less for federally impacted schools nationwide.

GCUSD is 22 percent federally impacted and received $680,000 in Impact Aid last year. An 8-percent cut would mean we would have $150,000 less with which to operate our district.

In a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the effects of sequestration on domestic programs held last fall, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told subcommittee members: "Impact Aid: to think that we would walk away from funding for the children of service members who are risking their lives every single day overseas - to somehow say we would give less funding to those children's schools is inconceivable to me."

But Impact Aid affects more school districts than those impacted by the military. Impact Aid helps provide money to school districts nationwide affected by Indian Reservations, federal buildings, low-rent housing facilities, National Parks and other federal entities. More than 1,300 school districts receive Impact Aid and it affects more than 11 million school children each year. Because they are in-lieu of local tax revenue, Impact Aid funds are "unrestricted," meaning they can be used in a school district in virtually unlimited ways - helping to pay for added technology, special education services, teacher salaries, new construction - all of which help students learn better and more efficiently in their school setting.

Impact Aid is a federal partnership with localities, and cutting or eliminating portions of it would expand the unfair burden on our local taxpayers. Congress recognized this fact way back in 1950 when they created Impact Aid. They said, ". . . without continued federal help, more than 1.8 million children in these federally impacted areas would not receive normal school service. The U.S. has become an industrialist, landlord, or a businessman in many communities." However, since the land is tax exempt, the federal government has not accepted "the responsibility of the normal citizen in a community" to meet its financial obligation to support public schools. By cutting Impact Aid, Congress is shirking its responsibility and shifting school funding responsibilities onto local taxpayers to the tune of $100 million. That's not fair.

GCUSD urges you to speak out and advocate on behalf of all federally impacted schools in this country.

Sharyl Allen

Grand Canyon School Superintendent

(928) 638-2461

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: Do the Math?

Isn't 8% of $680,000 about $54,400, not $150,000? And since Impact Aid is provided throughout the school year wouldn't the district have already received much of the money?

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Article comment by: Someone Educated

To the grammar critic: I see a few errors in your comment. There shouldn't be a comma between "language" and "and" in your third sentence, and you left off the period at the very end. Also, unless for some reason you meant to say "...there IS only two things..." in your last sentence, you should have used "there ARE" instead of the contraction "there's."

Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013
Article comment by: Federally impacted Schools

When speaking of school finances, schools that have a large majority of the population of tax payers tht are federal employees and especially those that live and/or work on tax-exempt federally owned land are termed federally impacted schools. The funding that is up for cuts via sequestration is called federal impact aid. GCS is a federally impacted school, which. Is an official legal term.

While you may feel that the use of the term impacted as inappropriate, in the world of school finance it is. The school finance definition of impacted is an accepted definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Article comment by: Two Things Get Impacted

Ms. Allen, as a supposedly educated woman, should know that using a word repeatedly in a sentence is very poor grammar. I counted 19 times she used the word "impact" in her essay. This shows extreme laziness with the English language, and inferior writing skills. Ms. Allen provides a very poor example to the students of Grand Canyon School in doing so. Besides, there's only two things on the planet that get "impacted:" Bowels and teeth

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