Legislative Action Team Advisory

Friday, December 16, 2005

Aid to Katrina impacts schools and children

Hurricane Katrina had a devastating and unprecedented impact on schools and students. Over 700 schools have been damaged or destroyed affecting over 372,000 students. As of December 16, there is a proposed amendment being considered in Congress on Hurricane Katrina Relief for displaced students and impacted schools. This amendment could be attached to the Defense Appropriations Bill HR 2863 which is considered a must pass bill.

This amendment would offer School Impact Aid through ED to the SEAs in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. The funds would be dispersed equitably to LEA’s and non-public schools for instruction, services, and assistance of displaced students in public and eligible non-public schools. Payments would be made on a quarterly basis for each student enrolled in a given quarter for a maximum payment of $6,000 and $7,500 for students with disabilities. Each SEA receiving funds emergency impact aid would provide to parents notification of the option of enrolling in a public or non-public school.

IRA is concerned that this measure may become a vehicle for the unrestricted use of federal funds by private schools. This would be a voucher that would be not be supported by IRA. Several members of Congress are pushing for this type of funding. Please contact your member of Congress and tell them to support funding using estblished principles and not turn this into a voucher.

IRA has issued the following statement:

“The Congress needs to act quickly to vote funds to support the needs of children and schools hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.” According to Alan Farstrup, executive director of the 90,000 member International Reading Association, “There is no reason to change long standing federal policies that focus support on children in-need and on public education. “Farstrup comments were prompted by an on-going Congressional debate, which seems to be without resolution, as to how best to provide federal funds to help schools in hurricane impacted areas.

“This catastrophe must be viewed as a unique event that requires exceptional and timely intervention to help students and schools in need. We shouldn’t change the fundamental principle that public monies flow through public agencies to help children and schools. Government must continue to provide support in ways that are non-ideological, non-sectarian, and that respect the civil rights of all. We should move forward based on our long standing and established principles.” Farstrup concluded, “We know how to do this. Now is not the time to delay sending funds where they are so badly needed. The children hit by these hurricanes are counting on us!”



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