U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Monday that two states and Puerto Rico will receive nearly $700 million in federal money to help their schools recover from natural disaster.
The Puerto Rico Department of Education will receive $589 million of this Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations program money, while the Texas education department will receive $89.4 million and California’s department will get $14.4 million, DeVos said. Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico last year and caused significant damage to the U.S. territory’s schools, many of which are due to close this summer. Meanwhile, Hurricane Harvey caused significant damage to the Houston area, and California experienced some of its worst wildfires in recent history late last year.
“This additional funding will ensure students, teachers and staff have ongoing access to the services they need to fully recover and rebuild,” DeVos said in a statement.
This “K-12 Restart” money will be distributed by state education agencies to local districts to help them cover costs associated with recovery from disasters and help schools recreate a “normal learning environment” for students. The money can also go to charter schools and private schools. (Puerto Rico recently approved a law allowing for the creation of charters.)
Last year after Hurricane Harvey, one estimate put the cost of the recovery for Houston’s public schools at $700 million.
States will have the chance to seek additional disaster-recovery aid in the future under the K-12 Restart program.