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Larsen to introduce legislation stabilizing Impact Aid funding

Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen discusses Impact Aid to a small group of people Friday at Olympic View Elementary. Larsen is co-sponsoring a bill that will be introduced next week that will improve the way federal Impact Aid dollars is dispersed. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen discusses Impact Aid to a small group of people Friday at Olympic View Elementary. Larsen is co-sponsoring a bill that will be introduced next week that will improve the way federal Impact Aid dollars is dispersed.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen visited Olympic View Elementary School Friday to announce he is introducing legislation to improve a federal funding program that brings millions of dollars to the Oak Harbor School District.

Larsen, currently in his seventh term, said he is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill next week to continue funding Impact Aid, which is a federal program that accounts for approximately $4 million of the Oak Harbor School District’s nearly $50 million budget.

Included in the proposed legislation is language that the Department of Education will have to make Impact Aid payments within three years, he said. It also will standardize the percentage of students, 45 percent, a school district must have in order to be eligible for Impact Aid.

“We’re working hard to continue and improve Impact Aid,” Larsen told a group of 15 people in the Olympic View Elementary School library.

Impact Aid is a federal program that helps school districts that have large populations of students who are military dependents or live on Indian reservations, but whose families don’t pay property taxes that fund school districts.

Seventy percent of students at Olympic View Elementary School and 51 percent of the students in Oak Harbor School District are military dependents.

Repeated delays in payments is a long simmering issue for the Oak Harbor School District.

Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte said the Department of Education is often delayed its Impact Aid payments. School districts have waited as long as five or six years before receiving its entire Impact Aid amounts.

Both Schulte and Larsen, who have both advocated the importance of Impact Aid for years, said they’ve never found an adequate explanation for the delay.

Larsen said six years is too long for a school district to wait. He said the new legislation is better, but his goal is to eliminate the wait school districts endure to receive its full Impact Aid amount.

As an example of the delay, Schulte said the school district received a $318,000 Impact Aid payment that was two years overdue.

Schulte said he is grateful that the funding came in May, in time for the payment to be incorporated into the 2013-14 budget.

Schulte cited the efforts of Larsen and other members of the federal delegation as the reason for the faster Impact Aid payment.

“That’s an immediate illustration of timely payment,” Schulte said.

Larsen said he successfully included a provision for timely Impact Aid payments in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act that was approved in 2012.

The proposed legislation would make the timely payment provision permanent.

In addition to Larsen, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican from South Dakota, is co-sponsoring the bill.

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