AASA Calls on Congress to Provide Funding to Districts Affected by Hurricane Katrina
ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 12 -- In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the country’s worst natural disasters, the American Association of School Administrators has called on congressional leaders to earmark $12.4 billion in federal disaster relief for school districts. The money would flow to districts that need to replace or reopen schools destroyed or damaged by the storm, and to districts in other parts of the country that are accepting displaced students.
“Over the past week, school superintendents across the country have stepped up, opening their schoolhouse doors to affected children and families and trying to create a sense of normalcy in an unprecedented situation,” said Paul Houston, executive director of AASA. “We believe our proposal goes a long way toward helping them accomplish that goal.”
AASA’s funding request includes $2.1 billion to underwrite the entire cost of educating the approximately 250,000 students displaced by Hurricane Katrina for the 2005-06 school year. Although 93 percent of school funding comes from state and local sources, Houston said that in the communities affected by Katrina those funds have been nearly wiped out and must be replaced by federal dollars. (According to the Department of Education, the national average per-pupil expenditure for the 2005-06 school year is $8,314.)
Also included in the funding request is $99.7 million in aid to cover the added cost of educating an estimated 30,000 displaced students who qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. Some of the money would help receiving districts cover the cost of new evaluations and Individualized Education Programs for displaced special education students.
Most of the federal aid being requested, $10 billion, would be used to rebuild or repair about 500 school buildings damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. “With little remaining tax base to help fund the capital expenses of rebuilding and repairing schools,” said Houston, “it is imperative that Congress step in to help in this area.” He noted that school construction would help provide a vehicle for economic revitalization in affected communities and much-needed jobs for out-of-work residents.
Another $200 million in aid would be used by school districts in affected areas and districts receiving new students to offset the administrative costs of working with other agencies and organizations in an effort to coordinate services to children and their families.
Houston also called on Congress to provide school districts with the ability to tap into resources being provided by other federal relief efforts. For example, he urged FEMA to set up temporary housing for school staff on or near school buildings in affected areas, a move he said would help school districts begin to serve students more quickly. He said Congress also needed to make it easier for school districts to file Medicaid claims for school-based health services provided to victims of Hurricane Katrina. AASA also has requested that district officials be given more flexibility in how they use federal funds, a move that would help impacted districts address immediate cash flow needs.
AASA, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders across America and in many other countries. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. AASA’s major focus is standing up for public education.
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