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ARLINGTON, Va. — Members of Congress and military advocacy organizations are up in arms over a Bush administration proposal to cut funds for an educational program that helps public schools educate children whose parents are stationed on nearby bases.

The “Impact Aid” education program is a 50-year-old program that compensates public school districts located in areas with tax-exempt federal properties, including military bases. The program, which received $1.19 billion from Congress in fiscal 2003, affects about 1.5 million students.

The Bush proposal, which is part of the Education Department’s 2004 budget request to Congress, would continue to fund impact aid for the 142,000 children of servicemembers who live on U.S. posts, but exclude the 240,000 children of servicemembers who live off base — a $128.5 million cut.

Officials at the Office of Management and Budget said the cut is justified because servicemembers who live off base pay property taxes.

But Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., said Thursday that many military families who live off base rent their living quarters instead of purchasing homes. Renters don’t pay property taxes.

Terry said he and other members of Congress were surprised to see the proposed cuts in the 2004 budget proposal, because the Impact Aid program went over $1 billion for the first time under this Bush administration.

Although the government is facing a multibillion-dollar deficit “and every penny counts, we’re not going to save the pennies” by cutting a program geared toward military families, Terry said.

“The message we want to send to the military is not, ‘We are shipping you out [for war] and cutting your children’s education.’ … It’s a slap in the face,” Terry said.

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