Schools On Military Bases Also Fall Victim To Sequester Cuts

Weekends on All Things Considered guest host Kelly McEvers talks to Jack Boogaard, the assistant superintendent of schools in Leemore, Calif., about how schools near military bases rely on federal money, much of which has been lost because of the budget cuts known as sequestration.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It's been two months since the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration officially went into effect. The decision on that was made here in Washington, but the effects are being felt all over the country. Take, for example, a chunk of money called impact aid.

JACK BOOGAARD: There's three different kids that can receive this type of money called impact aid.

MCEVERS: That's Jack Boogaard. He's an assistant superintendent of schools in Central California. He says the money is for the education of children who live on military bases, Native American reservations or in federal low-income housing. Because their schools are on federal or federally managed lands, they don't get revenue from property taxes. So the federal government kicks in to help.

BOOGAARD: Our particular district has two of these children: the military child and the Native American child.

MCEVERS: Two of Boogaard's elementary schools are located on a Navy base in Lemoore, California, and another is near a Native American rancheria. So they usually receive a lot of impact aid - it's about 30 percent of the district's entire budget. But Boogaard says it's tough because he's never really sure that's how much it will be.

BOOGAARD: I don't know how much impact aid I'm getting until actually the money shows up, and that makes it extremely difficult to plan and to plan staff and to plan supplies.

MCEVERS: For Boogaard in his schools, sequestration meant that when the money showed up this year, it was $350,000 short.

BOOGAARD: And I didn't know this until two months ago.

MCEVERS: That's only a 1.5 percent cut to the district's entire budget, but it's had a real effect. Take Akers Elementary. It's located on the Navy base, which means most of the children's parents are enlisted. Some parents work full time on the base, but others face deployment overseas.

KARLA OROSCO: I've had parents deployed nine months. The entire school year, one parent has been gone on deployment.

MCEVERS: That's Karla Orosco. She's a teacher at Akers Elementary. She says even if her students' parents don't deploy, military families move around a lot. Orosco says every year, a quarter of her class is new. She says students whose lives change so much and so fast need counselors. But previous budget cuts meant the school was already down to just one. Sequestration has made that permanent. The sequestration cuts won't close the schools. Classes are still going on.

OROSCO: Currently, we're doing human body systems, getting ready to do a frog dissection.

MCEVERS: But the classes are bigger, and there aren't as many supplies and staff members to go around. The U.S. government is hoping the states can offset the loss of the federal money, but Assistant Superintendent Jack Boogaard says California is in no position to do that.

BOOGAARD: We've lost P.E. teachers, we've lost technology teachers, core teachers. It's just across the board, and that hurts.

MCEVERS: Boogaard says administrators in his district are hoping to avoid making any dramatic cuts for now. Instead, he says, they'll wait it out for a year, hoping sequestration goes away or that the economy in California rebounds.

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