01.30.20

WITH NEARLY $2 MILLION AT RISK & CRITICAL RESOURCES FOR 10,000+ WESTERN NEW YORK STUDENTS IN JEOPARDY, SCHUMER PRESSES BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS TO CUT THROUGH BUREAUCRATIC RED TAPE AND SECURE IMPACT AID FOR SIX NATIVE AMERICAN WNY DISTRICTS

Districts Have Been Left Waiting For 6+ Weeks As Bureaucratic Hold Ups Leave Six WNY Districts And Thousands Of Students Waiting For Millions 

Schumer Urges BIA To Do Its Job And Sign Off On Vital Funding For WNY Districts

Schumer To Bureau Of Indian Affairs: It’s Not A Hard Equation: Approval = Millions For WNY Students

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to immediately sign off on the Indian Lands Source Check forms for six Western New York school districts, which provide them with vital funding under the Department of Education Impact Aid program. The six districts—Salamanca, Gowanda, Silver Creek, Akron, Niagara Wheatfield, and Evans-Brant—risk penalties of 10% of their total Impact Aid, amounting to nearly $2,000,000, for late submission to the Department of Education, which is due tomorrow, January 31st. However, the districts reported submitting these documents as early as December 13, 2019, but bureaucratic tie-ups and federal agency inaction have—not for the first time—left Western New York students high and dry, with no funding and no answers. The forms cannot be submitted to the Department of Education without the necessary authorization from BIA, which has not yet arrived. Therefore, Schumer called on the BIA to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and sign off on the documents without any delay, to ensure these school districts continue receiving the necessary funding and avoid catastrophic budget shortfalls and cuts to staff and programs.

“A quality education is the foundation on which our children can build successful and fulfilling lives, and it’s no secret that the federal Impact Aid program routinely gives local students a quality education thanks to the millions of dollars it provides. It is just plain wrong that this opportunity would again be put at risk by bureaucratic tie-ups and federal inaction,” said Senator Schumer. “It’s tragic to see any school district lose money, but it is especially difficult when it comes to these districts that rely so heavily on Impact Aid and did everything they needed to do to receive that funding. That’s why I’m urging the BIA to, without delay, sign off on these vital documents and ensure the six Western New York school districts receive the funding they need to foster academic success among students and prepare them for the rest of their lives.”

“In Salamanca, we are absolutely reliant on federal Impact Aid. A substantial portion of our annual budget is covered by this program, and without it, we risk a serious financial shortfall. I wholly appreciate the efforts of Senator Schumer to address this problem because it’s critical and it’s not going away. We shouldn’t have our back up against the wall year after year. It complicates our strategic planning ability and leads to uncertainly for our staff, parents, and most importantly our students,” said Robert Breidenstein, Salamanca Superintendent

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the New York school districts have encountered a delay in securing BIA sign off on the Source Documents. Moving forward, Senator Schumer suggested that BIA work with the Eastern Region to ensure that this does not happen in the future or coordinate with the Department of Education so that school districts and their thousands of students are not penalized for delays originating at the BIA.

Since its creation in 1950, the Impact Aid program has provided assistance to local school districts with concentrations of children residing on Indian lands or other federal properties, such as military bases, West Point, low-rent housing properties, and concentrations of children who have parents in the uniformed services or employed on eligible federal properties who do not live on federal property. The Impact Aid Program is designed to directly compensate local school districts for local revenue lost due to the presence of federally-owned, and therefore tax-exempt property, as well as costs incurred due to "federally connected" students, such as children living on Native American land. These school districts face special challenges—they must provide a quality education on-par with NYS and federal standards without the certainly of yearly school tax revenue, thus complicating their budget processes.

According to the National Indian Education Association, over ninety percent of Native American students are enrolled in public schools, making Impact Aid not just an important resource, but an essential fund for local education agencies to address the needs of Native American students. Senator Schumer has long fought to boost funding for the Impact Aid Program. For Fiscal Year 2019, Senator Schumer successfully fought to secure a $32 million boost for the Impact Aid program, bringing its total funding to $1.446 billion.

A Copy of Schumer's Letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs appear below. 

Dear Assistant Secretary Sweeney,

 

I write to strongly urge the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to immediately sign off on the Indian Lands Source Check forms for six districts in New York: Salamanca City, Gowanda Central, Silver Creek Central, Akron Central, Niagara Wheatfield Central, and Evans-Brant Central. Without immediate action by the BIA, these school districts risk penalties of 10% of their total Impact Aid claim, nearly a staggering $2,000,000, for a late submission to the Department of Education, which is due tomorrow, January 31st.

The school districts report that these documents were submitted to the BIA over six weeks ago, as early as December 13, 2019. It is absolutely unacceptable for vital education dollars for over 10,000 New York students to be at risk due to bureaucratic hold ups and inaction by a federal agency tasked to ensure the trust responsibilities to provide quality education of Native American children is met. According to the National Indian Education Association, over ninety percent of Native American students are enrolled in public schools, making Impact Aid not just an important resource, but an essential fund for local education agencies to address the needs of Native American students.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the New York school districts have encountered a delay in securing BIA sign off on the Source Documents. Moving forward, I suggest that you work with the Eastern Region to ensure that this does not happen in the future or coordinate with the Department of Education so that school districts and their thousands of students are not penalized for delays originating at the BIA.

 

Sincerely,

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