School childrenNew Mexico state lawmakers are renewing efforts to stop the practice of siphoning away federal funding from rural school districts. Traditionally, districts fund their public schools in large part from property taxes. But in rural districts, property taxes can be very low. Tribal lands, national forest and military bases are exempt from property taxes altogether.

These areas rely on federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Impact Aid program to close the gap. But in 2019 more than half of that aid was diverted to the state’s general fund, where it was distributed to public schools throughout the state based on the number of students, a practice that heavily favored urban schools.

In the past, legislation to ensure that rural areas receive equitable federal aid has stalled in the New Mexico Legislature. Now, four separate bills could make up for tens of millions in federal impact aid that is otherwise diverted.

The legislative approaches vary widely. One house bill would establish a state fund and appropriate $18.9 million, which would gradually increase over the next several years. Another senate bill would funnel 100 percent of the federal impact aid to rural districts.

Read the full story at the Santa Fe New Mexican here: