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Bush’s Post-Katrina Funding Plan Inadequate, Says School Administrators Group

Alexandria, VA
The American Association of School Administrators expressed strong disappointment with President Bush’s proposals to fund the many public school districts around the United States that have taken in hundreds of thousands of students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

In a supplemental appropriations proposal sent to Congress, President Bush has asked for $488 million to compensate families for the costs associated with attending private schools. The administration is also proposing up to $1.9 billion in funding for public elementary and secondary school relief.

“With the private school voucher proposal, the administration is brazenly attempting to advance its long-time and dubious agenda to provide public dollars for private education,” says AASA executive director Dr. Paul Houston. “Also, the proposed $1.9 billion in funding for school relief falls far short of the $3.5 billion these schools will truly need for per-pupil expenditures, for students with disabilities and for inevitable administrative costs.”

Houston points out that the proposal for private school vouchers is “outrageous” in large part because public schools have borne the vast majority of the responsibility of educating the 372,000 students — from both public and private schools — displaced by the hurricane. “It is unacceptable that the administration would put forward an ideologically driven gimmick at a time of crisis that calls for pragmatic solutions,” Houston says.

AASA recently submitted its own proposals for emergency supplemental funds to Congress and the administration. Based on a review of school districts across the country, AASA recommended a total aid package of $13.5 billion for districts that need to reopen schools destroyed or damaged by the storm and to districts in other parts of the country that are accepting displaced students. This amount includes:

– $3.1 billion to underwrite the entire cost of educating the students displaced by  Katrina for the 2005-2006 school year. Although 93 percent of school funding comes from state and local sources, those funds in communities affected by Katrina have been wiped out and must be replaced by federal dollars.

– $148 million to cover the added cost of educating an estimated 45,000 displaced students who qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

– $10 billion to rebuild or repair approximately 500 school buildings damaged or destroyed by Katrina. School construction and/or reconstruction is essential and would help to provide a vehicle for economic revitalization in affected communities and much-needed jobs for out-of-work residents.

– Another $200 million in aid to be used by school districts in affected areas and districts receiving new students to offset
the costs of reaching out to agencies and organizations in an effort to coordinate services to children and their families.

“The response of public school systems to this crisis has been nothing short of heroic,” Houston says. “They are actively demonstrating the critical role they play as a safety net for America’s public school children.”

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