Sinema confident federal aid to Pinal schools will expand

Apr 3, 2019

Sinema confident federal aid to Pinal schools will expand

Casa Grande Dispatch

CASA GRANDE — U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., says federal aid to several Pinal County school districts will be protected and possibly expand in the near future.


Arizona’s senior senator told PinalCentral this week she’s confident Impact Aid, a program that provides funding to Arizona schools with Native American students, will remain intact despite proposals from the White House to cut the program’s budget.


President Donald Trump’s budget for the next fiscal year proposes cutting a portion of Impact Aid funding. Sinema’s not worried because Congress holds the power for appropriating funds.


“I didn’t read the president’s budget,” Sinema said. “It’s not real.”


School districts in Casa Grande, Stanfield, Sacaton, Coolidge and Maricopa receive funding from Impact Aid, collecting up to $3.6 million in fiscal year 2017.


The program was designed to assist schools that don’t receive property taxes for students living on Native American reservations or military bases.


Trump’s proposed budget would not increase the section of Impact Aid that funds Arizona school districts and eliminates funding for other districts that have their property seized by the federal government.


The U.S. Department of Education wrote in its proposed budget that it can’t ensure whether these school districts actually educate children living on federally connected land.


The National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, which represents school districts dependent on Impact Aid, opposes Trump’s budget proposals and called for a $50-million increase to the program.


“We should be investing in the future of these students, not cutting critical programs,” NAFIS Executive Director Hilary Goldmann said in a statement.


Sinema, who was elected to the Senate in 2018, said Arizona is one of the largest recipients of Impact Aid and thinks Congress will be able to continue appropriating more funding for the program, as it has in recent years.


Despite only being in office a few months, the Democratic senator said she’s been thinking of Pinal County while legislating in the Capitol.


She referenced her ability to get a cellphone company to improve broadband connectivity for an RV park near Casa Grande earlier this year. And she’s trying to find ways to help Pinal County not have the worst ratio of primary care doctors per capita in the state.


And what about the influx of migrants trying to get across the U.S.-Mexico border?


The senator doesn’t think the president’s threats of shutting down the border are realistic, considering the economic harm it would bring to commerce that moves between Arizona and Mexico.


She and U.S. Sen. Martha McSally called on Customs and Border Protection this week not to remove any officers from the country’s ports of entry. The Arizona senators said they want to work with CBP to improve border security, but not the at the cost of reducing port staffing.