Study Reviews Public School Dependence on Impact Aid Program

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, and Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, hosted a bipartisan legislative study Tuesday to better understand a portion of federal education funds known as the Impact Aid Program. 

The federal Impact Aid Program reimburses school districts for lost property taxes stemming from federally owned land inside a municipality’s boundaries. Oklahoma has more school districts receiving impact aid than any other state in the U.S.

“Mid-Del loses about $2.8 million each year in lost property taxes due to the presence of federal property,” Fugate said. “That’s $215 for each of Mid-Del’s 13,000 students. But Mid-Del is not alone. Oklahoma has over 200 districts that receive Impact Aid. Understanding this funding is important to protecting Oklahoma public schools.”

As Congress continues to struggle with the politics of federal spending, state lawmakers must take the time to consider how Oklahoma schools could survive without the funds.  

"Federal impact aid helps Oklahoma schools in many ways, whether paying for teacher salaries, classroom materials, transportation needs or so much more," Pae said. "To ensure our students and those who teach them continue to have what they need, we have to look at the federal dollars schools are receiving and what happens when those dollars are no longer available." 

The study started with background information about the federal program and ended with testimony from superintendents on how the funds benefit their district.

“Because our anchor is a  federal entity, we are always far behind school districts that are similar to us in size and demographics as far as our ability to generate revenue locally,” said Dr. Rick Cobb, superintendent of Mid-Del Public Schools. “As long as Mid-Del has low ad valorem collections, major improvements such as STEM academies and freshman centers for college and career readiness are nothing but an aspiration.” 

Even if the federal government doesn’t remove funding, the level of reimbursement doesn’t equal the loss in property taxes.

“This is a good program,” Fugate said. “Yet, it could use some improvement. While state lawmakers continue to look for ways to protect education funding, our federal delegation must fight for an increase in this program that is vital to Oklahoma schools."

Fugate and Pae hope to build a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to invest in the program and find new sources of education funding.