Federal

Congress Approves Additional Hurricane Aid for Schools

By Alyson Klein — June 19, 2006 3 min read

Congress gave final approval last week to a measure that provides $235 million to schools educating students displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and extends the deadline for schools to decide how to spend the money.

President Bush on June 15 signed the legislation, which is part of a House-Senate conference report of a $94.5 billion emergency-spending bill for fiscal 2006 to finance the Iraq war, anti-terrorism measures, and Gulf Coast hurricane recovery. The House approved the measure on a 351-67 vote on June 13, and the Senate passed it 98-1 on June 15.

Congress had already provided $645 million in reimbursement funds for districts that took in evacuees under the Hurricane Education Recovery Act, signed by President Bush last December. Under that measure, the U.S. Department of Education was authorized to distribute up to $6,000 per general education student and $7,500 for each student in special education.

However, lawmakers initially approved only enough money to give schools about $4,000 per student. The supplemental-spending bill is intended to help close the gap. The extra funding must be spent on expenses incurred during the 2005-06 school year, such as salaries and classroom materials.

Capitol Hill staff members could not provide a firm estimate of how much more per-pupil aid the new allocation would provide, but they said they expected the final amount to be fairly close to the $6,000 per student initially authorized.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, whose home state initially took in more than 45,000 student evacuees, and other lawmakers had originally sought $300 million in extra hurricane aid for this school year and an additional $350 million for the 2006-07 school year.

The Senate approved those amounts last month, but the money was cut in conference negotiations, in part because House Republican leaders and President Bush did not want the bill’s cost to go beyond $94.5 billion.

“Because of the paring down they had to do in the bill, this was really all they were able to negotiate,” said Rodney E. Fisher, the federal liaison for the Texas Education Agency. “We were disappointed that we didn’t get the full amount, but we’re very grateful. This will go a long way.”

But other advocates for states were more critical.

“Congress did what they could to make helping states a priority,” said Joan E. Wodiska, the director of the education, early-childhood, and workforce committee of the National Governors Association. “But even with this most recent installment, it won’t be enough to cover the bills.”

Deadline Extension

The conference report also gives Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings the power to give schools more time to spend the hurricane money. Originally, schools were supposed to return any unspent funds to the Education Department by the end of the school year, defined as July 31.

But many school districts, particularly those in the areas hit hardest by the storms last August and September, said that deadline did not give them enough time to decide how to spend the aid, since many states and schools have not yet received all their money. Some districts are worried that the timeline might force them to return some of the federal funding, known as “impact aid,” despite overwhelming needs.

While local school officials were heartened by the prospect of additional aid, some said they would have liked more flexibility to use the money for next year.

“Adding some months will help us deal with the paperwork,” said Susan C. McLaurin, the director of federal programs for the 7,500-student Pascagoula, Miss., school district, which has about 630 displaced students. She said her district was expecting to end up with $2 million from the first appropriation of hurricane impact aid, not counting any funds from the supplemental measure.

But she said she would have liked “a little leeway to expend those funds,” since “those same children will be back in our classrooms next year.”

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2006 edition of Education Week as Congress Approves Additional Hurricane Aid for Schools

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Arizona School Data Analyst - (AZVA)
Arizona, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Proposal Writer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Read Next

Federal Biden Legal Team Steps Back From Trump Stance on Transgender Female Sports Participation
The Education Department's office for civil rights pulls a letter that said Connecticut's transgender-inclusive policy violates Title IX.
4 min read
Bloomfield High School transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins the final of the 55-meter dash over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, far left, and other runners in the Connecticut girls Class S indoor track meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn on Feb. 7, 2019. Transgender athletes are getting an ally in the White House next week as they seek to participate as their identified gender in high school and college sports. Attorneys on both sides say they expect President-elect Joe Biden’s Department of Education will switch sides in legal battles that could go a long way in determining whether transgender athletes are treated by the sex on their birth certificates or by how they identify.
Bloomfield High School transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, far left, and other runners in an event in New Haven, Conn. The two transgender athletes are at the center of a legal fight in Connecticut over the participation of transgender female athletes in girls' or women's sports.
Pat Eaton-Robb/AP
Federal Congress Again Tries to Pass Eagles Act, Focused on School Shootings After Parkland
A group of bipartisan Congressional lawmakers is once again trying to get a law passed aimed at preventing school violence.
Devoun Cetoute & Carli Teproff
2 min read
Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2019 during the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2019 during the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal Some Districts Extend Paid Leave Policies as They Hope for Passage of Biden Relief Plan
With federal provisions having expired, some school employees have had to dip into their own banks of leave for COVID-19 purposes.
5 min read
Linda Davila-Macal, a seventh grade reading teacher at BL Garza Middle School in Edinburg, Texas, works from her virtual classroom at her home on Aug. 31, 2020.
A teacher leads a virtual classroom from her home.
Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP
Federal President Biden Is Walking a 'Careful Tightrope' When It Comes to School Reopenings
CDC guidance and confusion over his rhetoric turn up the pressure, and could overshadow progress in schools and nuanced public opinion.
9 min read
President Joe Biden answers questions during a televised town hall event at Pabst Theater in Milwaukee on Feb. 16, 2021.
President Joe Biden answers questions during a televised town hall event in Milwaukee earlier this month.
Evan Vucci/AP