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Oil boom offsets federal aid cuts for some schools

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 10, 2014 at 10:14 am •  Published: May 10, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — In the last few years, officials in South Dakota's Todd County School District have had to leave positions unfilled, cut down on professional development and re-evaluate services such as busing.

It's a different story some 450 miles northwest, where North Dakota's oil boom has helped New Town School District build 20 homes and an apartment complex for the district's teachers and constructed a new high school. In the fall, they'll break ground on a vocational center.

Both districts, with nearby Native American reservations, have relied on Federal Impact Aid Funding, which compensates districts that encompass large swathes of tax-exempt federal land, such as reservations and military bases, and large numbers of students who either live on federal land, are Native American or have parents employed by the federal government.

However, the funding has decreased in recent years due to a combination of less money being allotted annually and the effects of 2013's sequestration cuts. That's left most of the districts, like Todd County, in the lurch. North Dakota's schools have fared better, with some, like New Town, thriving thanks to the oil boom.

Oil leases and exploration on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers is bringing in millions of dollars in royalty each year to New Town, Superintendent Marc Bluestone said. The Corps took over the land that was intended for the district about 50 years ago to build the Garrison Dam, so now the district is seeing some of that money come back and has reinvested heavily in its infrastructure and programs.

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