Making an Impact for Students
By Rep. Kristi Noem
I’ve always believed decisions are best made at the local level, particularly when it involves the education our kids are receiving. That was a big driver behind the work we did in the Student Success Act, which was designed to reduce the federal footprint and empower both parents and local school districts.
That work is ongoing, however, as federal policies continue to impede on local decision-making. One issue where we continue to work is the Impact Aid Program, which reimburses local schools for revenue losses that occur when nontaxable federal land is in their districts.
More specifically, schools rely on local property taxes to pay the bills. Tax is not collected, however, on federal lands, such as military installations, Indian Trust land, and national grasslands. As a result, a school bordering Ellsworth Air Force Base must overcome tremendous budgetary challenges as no taxes are paid on the property in much of their district.
That’s where the Impact Aid Program comes in. As Hilary Goldmann, who heads an association dedicated to maintaining Impact Aid, explains: The program “pays for teacher salaries, school counselors, technology, student transportation and other education programming…”
In South Dakota, about 30 school districts are eligible for the program. These school districts are often located in rural areas with few taxpayers and where administrators double as bus drivers, teachers, and coaches.
Simply put, Impact Aid helps ensure we maintain a level playing field for all South Dakota school districts. Going to school near the Air Force Base or one of South Dakota’s nine Indian Reservations shouldn’t limit classroom resources.
Earlier this fall, I was honored to be recognized by more than 50 South Dakota teachers who are part of the country’s leading Impact Aid group for my work to strengthen this critical support system. More specifically, they discussed my work on bipartisan legislation to increase the program’s efficiency and provide greater flexibility to the school districts that receive it. They also discussed the provisions I introduced to improve Impact Aid in the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Jamie Hermann, who is president of Impact Schools of South Dakota, noted: “Every time Impact Aid school districts needed assistance, Rep. Noem was there to help successfully lead the charge. From the first meeting with her, she recognized the federal government’s financial obligation to school districts that have a decreased tax base due to the federal government ownership of the land.”
Those are humbling words to hear, but I’m grateful for the award and will continue to fight so classrooms have the resources our kids need to succeed.