The federal government helps fund public school districts that educate children who live on military bases, making up for lost local taxes on government property.
Bush's proposed budget, submitted this week, envisions eliminating children of military personnel who live off base from the funding formula used to calculate the in-lieu-of-taxes payments.
Copperas Cove, Texas, where many Fort Hood children attend school, would lose $9.5 million, about 20 percent of the local school district's operating budget, its controller, Robert Edmonson, said Thursday.
"We've got bases that are deploying troops and if these children go unfunded, as opposed to no child left behind, we'll be leaving all military children behind," Edmonson said.
A total of 1,300 school districts receive what is known as impact aid from the federal government because they can't assess taxes on federal property or tribal reservations but still have to educate children whose parents live or work there.
The administration would still include in the formula the 142,000 children who live on military bases and attend local public schools. However, the 240,000 military children who live off base would no longer be counted in calculating the payments.
"If these students are living off base in private property, then the district is receiving property tax to pay for their education," said Amy Call, a spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget.
That explanation doesn't satisfy Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, whose district includes Fort Hood. The Army post already has deployed the 12,500-member 4th Infantry Division and other military personnel in the buildup for any war with Iraq.
"What the bean counters at OMB missed is you simply don't send servicemen and women off to the Iraqi theater and as soon as they get on the plane tell them, 'By the way, we are cutting education funding for your children, who will be back here at home,'" Edwards said.
John Deegan, superintendent of Nebraska's 9,000-student Bellevue Public School District near Offutt Air Force Base, said his system would lose $7 million. "I'm not sure how I can explain that to mothers of military soldiers who have been deployed," Deegan said.
The unified school district in San Diego would lose about $3.5 million, said its controller, Richard Knott. He said his school district already is laying off people because of state budget cuts.
John Forkenbrock, executive director of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, said the government pays an average $3,500 per child to local school districts for children living on base but not attending schools run by the Defense Department. For children of military personnel living off base, the payments average between $700 and $800 per child, he said.