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    Sunday, November 27, 2022

    Steady federal school aid secured for Groton, Ledyard

    For the second year in a row, steady federal Impact Aid funding has been secured for schools in Groton and Ledyard amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    On Friday, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, announced that President Joe Biden had signed the bipartisan bill to protect funding for next school year; former President Donald Trump had signed the previous bill.

    The federal Impact Aid program provides funding to school districts "that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt federal property or to those that have experienced increased expenditures due to enrollment of federally connected children," such as children who live on tribal lands or military bases, according to the Supplemental Impact Aid Flexibility Act.

    The grant amount is based on how many students meet that criteria. Groton and Ledyard school officials had raised concerns last year about an undercount of eligible students — which would mean a smaller amount of money — amid the upheaval of the pandemic.

    Groton Superintendent Susan Austin said that though the school district had the same number of students, it became difficult to gather the required paperwork on eligible children during the pandemic. With the help of the bill that passed last year, the district was allowed to use the number of eligible students from the previous year on its Impact Aid application to maintain the same level of funding. 

    The new law similarly will allow school districts to use already calculated student headcounts for their Impact Aid applications for next year, according to a news release from Courtney's office. The funds go directly to the towns to pay for education costs.

    Courtney, who co-authored the bill, praised the "work and advocacy" of Groton and Ledyard school officials, particularly the superintendents.

    Over the past four years, Groton has received an average of about $4 million in Impact Aid, according to Austin. The town receives the annual funding "based on how many of our school aged population have parents that work or live on federal properties," such as the Naval Submarine Base, she said in a statement. That includes more than 1,700 Groton students.

    Ledyard Superintendent of Schools Jason S. Hartling said roughly 35% of Ledyard students are counted as eligible when determining the Impact Aid funding for the district. That includes about 150 students whose parents live or work on Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation lands and about 700 students whose parents are associated with the U.S. Navy and other federal agencies.

    "I am thankful that Rep. Courtney continued his efforts to make sure our community receives this valuable support," Hartling said by email Friday. "Impact Aid represents over $1.6 million in revenue to the town and is a critical funding source. Over the past five years we have worked to ensure Ledyard was fully utilizing the program and without this legislation there was the potential that we would lose significant funding."

    k.drelich@theday.com

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