Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pictured is the funding made available through the high school Impact Aid budgets. In Big Horn County, the high school budget is focused on Hardin High School.Pictured is the funding made available through the elementary Impact Aid budgets. Impact Aid in Big Horn County is used to help schools in Hardin, Crow Agency and Fort Smith.

Proposed ‘skinny budget’ cuts to education may lower Impact Aid

The recent presidential election may have a significant impact on every public school student in Big Horn County if Donald Trump’s proposed “skinny budget” comes to pass. In this budget, education is set to be cut by 14 percent, including Impact Aid.
 
Impact Aid is a federal program used to help school districts that have lost money because of tax-exempt federal property in the area, or certain children enrolled in the school. These children include those who live on – or whose parents work on – federal land. 
 
Program funds are put into a school’s general budget, and the elected school board decides how they are spent. They can be used very flexibly: from teachers’ wages to activities to school supplies. The money is given on a needs basis. The more dependent the school is on the money, the more they get.
 
In the 17H & 1 District, Impact Aid money makes up 17 percent of the high school budget, and 30 percent of the elementary budget. Hardin High School makes up the entirety of the high school budget. Included in the elementary budget are Hardin Intermediate School, Hardin Middle School, Crow Elementary School and Fort Smith Elementary School. The Crow Reservation, Bighorn Canyon, Yellowstone River and Custer Battlefield are the federal lands that affect Impact Aid for the school district.
 
The high school Impact Aid payments totaled $900,000 in 2014, $1,100,000 in 2015 and $600,000 in 2016. The elementary Impact Aid payments totaled $3,500,000 in 2014, $3,700,000 in 2015 and $2,800,000 in 2016. Every federal K-12 education program is funded before Impact Aid, so the total 2017 payment has not yet been calculated.
 
Due to the case-by-case nature of Impact Aid, District Superintendent Dennis Gerke said, divvying out exactly how much of the elementary budget goes to which school would prove challenging. However, he continued, the district does “a good job of dividing it up proportionally.” 
 
 “With our 85 percent Native American population,” he said, “a lot of Impact Aid goes to serve those students.”
 
Hardin District Director of Federal Programs Beth Howe-Yarlott foresees lower Impact Aid payments not only to the local district schools, but schools all over the country.
 
“It all depends on what kind of funding is at the top level of the federal government in order for them to be able to disperse [funds] to the schools,” Howe-Yarlott said. “We are looking at some cuts.”
 
Howe-Yarlott believes it is important for parents to be aware of Impact Aid, due to projected changes in Big Horn County school funds. If Impact Aid is cut, it would hit not only the 17H & 1 district, but the 11 million other children nationwide who rely on the funding.
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