Plan to convert federal Impact Aid into ESAs for military families appears halted

Proposals introduced during recent House and Senate deliberations on the pending National Defense Authorization Act would have redirected more than $400 million from the Impact Aid program to education savings accounts (ESAs) for private school tuition.  (See previous post.)  For the time being, those proposals will not advance.

The federal Impact Aid program provides funding to school districts with non-taxable federal properties within their jurisdictions. These properties include military installations and Native American tribal lands. (According to the DPI, 22 Wisconsin school districts received a total of more than $16 million in Impact Aid in 2016-17.)

Last week, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee approved its recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate measure does not, however, include proposals to redirect Impact Aid funds to a voucher/education savings accounts (ESAs) program for military families. (Earlier, the U.S. House Rules Committee also rejected such an amendment in its respective version of the NDAA.)

The Senate version also authorizes $40 million in supplemental Impact Aid funding to school districts educating military dependent children and $10 million in Impact Aid funding for schools educating military dependent students with severe disabilities.

On May 22, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The four-hour-plus hearing covered a range of issues, including the Department of Education’s ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Secretary’s plans for reorganizing the Department, school safety, educating immigrant students, and the future of the Impact Aid program.  During her testimony, Secretary DeVos stated that the Trump Administration is committed to the Impact Aid program, and that she does not support measures authorizing the use Impact Aid funding for private school tuition.