Education Funding

Federal Officials Plan Next Steps to Help Schools Cope With Katrina’s Effects

By Michelle R. Davis — September 07, 2005 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Federal officials are grappling with the next steps to help students displaced by Hurricane Katrina return to school and to help districts and educators also cope with the aftermath of the disaster.

In remarks from the Oval Office in the White House on Sept. 6, President Bush thanked school districts across the country for welcoming students whose homes and schools were flooded or destroyed because of the hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast last week. He said he had met with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings that morning to discuss a plan to help states deal with the costs of enrolling thousands of unexpected students.

“A lot of school districts are taking in these children who have had to leave their homes and their local districts,” Mr. Bush said. “And we want to thank the schools and the school districts and the teachers and the PTAs for reaching out and doing their duty.”

Secretary Spellings announced a new Web site aimed at helping schools that have enrolled student evacuees, called Hurricane Help for Schools.

The Web site is aimed at getting additional supplies to schools that have enrolled students from New Orleans and other hard-hit areas. Schools can post messages about what resources and supplies they need, and companies and organizations can respond directly. Groups can also offer their own resources and provide ways for schools to contact them.

“Schools across the country are taking in displaced students, and Americans want to help them,” Ms. Spellings said in a statement. “We are committed to making sure that help gets to those who need it.”

The secretary planned to meet Sept. 7 with education groups’ representatives to help coordinate relief efforts for schools. The U.S. Department of Education said in a Sept. 6 news release that certain reporting provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act would be relaxed for states that were affected, but officials were not specific on which provisions those might be.

Lawmakers Meet With Key Groups

On Capitol Hill, federal lawmakers were also moving to aid schools handling an influx of evacuated students. Though Congress has already approved $10.5 billion in general emergency funds for the affected areas, some lawmakers were seeking to provide help specifically to schools and students.

Sens. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, convened a meeting Sept. 6 with representatives from a long list of relief groups, including those that deal with education. The committee planned to hold a hearing or roundtable discussion Sept. 8 to develop more concrete ideas for aid.

After the Sept. 6 meeting, which included representatives of the 2.7 million-member National Education Association and the Council of the Great City Schools, Sen. Kennedy announced that he would seek to send $2,500 per child to districts that had enrolled students displaced by the hurricane.

“We are facing a disaster of biblical proportions. … It really has touched the hearts and souls of all Americans,” Mr. Kennedy said.

He urged evacuees to go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Web site to register for assistance.

Reg Weaver, the president of the NEA, who attended the meeting with Sens. Kennedy and Enzi, said he suggested starting a disaster-assistance fund specifically for schools.

“Senator Enzi and Senator Kennedy were very accepting of ideas,” Mr. Weaver said. “Anything that will offer assistance to schools, teachers, and students is welcome.”

Michael D. Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, who also attended the meeting, urged Congress to authorize FEMA to do what was needed to help schools, including assistance in rebuilding facilities, providing portable classrooms, and buying textbooks.

“This is a calamity we’ve never seen before and deserves our undivided and full attention,” said Mr. Casserly, whose Washington-based organization represents large urban school districts.

Restoring Confidence

On the House side, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the ranking minority member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, said it was critical that Congress restore Americans’ confidence in government’s ability to handle the crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina.

“Today, when school districts all over the country are absorbing hundreds of thousands of new schoolchildren that they know nothing about, … we’ve got to rebuild that confidence in the school districts, in the teachers, in the administrators, in the local government, that they will be able to take care of these children, provide them with an education for whatever length of time, and they will be properly reimbursed,” Mr. Miller said.

Secretary Spellings, meanwhile, also fielded questions in a White House Web chat Sept. 6 on the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Questions ranged from teachers trying to find their students, to students seeking ways to raise money for victims, to more technical questions about provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Events

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
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
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
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean
Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Districts Steer Federal Teacher-Quality Funding Into Recruitment, Retention
Efforts to recruit teachers and create "grow your own" programs are in; class-size reduction and teacher evaluation are out.
5 min read
Blurred view of the back of students in a classroom with their hands raised answering to a female teacher
E+/Getty
Education Funding In Their Own Words This Superintendent's Tiny, Rural District Got No COVID Aid. Here's Why That Hurts
The aid formula left Long Lake, N.Y., out of the mix. The superintendent worries that could happen for other kinds of aid in the future.
3 min read
Long Lake Superintendent Noelle Short in front of Long Lake Central School in Long Lake, N.Y., on Sept. 1, 2022.
Noelle Short is the superintendent of a single-school district in upstate New York with fewer than 100 students.
Heather Ainsworth for Education Week
Education Funding Grants Aim to Support Alaska Native Students' Education, Well-Being
The U.S. Department of Education is providing more than $35 million for projects in its latest round of funding.
2 min read
The East Anchorage High and Scammon Bay students gather at a home in the Native Village to learn how to comb fur from a musk ox hide using special combs and common forks. The fur can later be spun into yarn.
Students from East Anchorage High School and Scammon Bay, Alaska, gather to learn how to comb fur from a musk ox hide through a federally funded cultural and educational program for Alaska Native students.
Erin Irwin/Education Week
Education Funding District Leaders Plea to Feds: We Need More Time to Spend COVID Aid
Without more flexibility on the 2024 spending deadline, critical programs will be axed, they warn.
5 min read
Image of money and a timer.
iStock/Getty