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Senate Dems want tribal school districts to tap impact aid

Senate Democrats are pushing to give schools on American Indian reservations the ability to access federal impact aid money to make up for state budget cuts to schools.

A handful of Senate Democrats want the schools to have permission to use the federal money in fiscal 2010 to essentially maintain the funding levels that were in place in January 2009.

School districts that include parts of tribal lands receive federal impact aid because they are not allowed to collect taxes on property within the reservations. On the other hand, school districts that don’t include tribal land receive no impact aid because they receive revenue from local taxes.

Because the state sets expenditure limits on all school districts, the districts that include tribal land generally receive more money from the federal Impact Aid Program than they are allowed to spend. As a result, the money sits in district accounts.

Senate Minority Leader Jorge Luis Garcia, and others in his caucus, support the idea of allowing the districts to spend the excess federal impact aid on a temporary basis. They have requested that special session legislation include provisions to allow the districts to tap the accounts.

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