House Approves Legislation to Extend Aid to School Systems Recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House approved bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) that will help rebuild school systems affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  The legislation will extend part of a law passed last year that provides school systems easier access to federal resources and will also allow them greater flexibility in how they spend the money. 

"We can’t allow children to go without access to a quality education, and a safe and healthy school,” Schiff said.  On my visit to the Gulf Coast, I was deeply saddened to see the extent of the devastation, and find it tragic that so little has been accomplished since. We must make rebuilding the schools in our devasted gulf states the very highest priority.  Our kids' education must not get mired down in a bureaucratic process that ignores the needs of our children."

On the Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Rep. Schiff traveled to the Gulf Coast with a group of House Democrats on a fact finding mission.  During his visit, he met the Superintendent of St. Bernard Schools, Doris Voitier who raised the need for this legislation.  She told Rep. Schiff and his colleagues how devastating it would be for this funding and flexibility to dry up and wither away.

The legislation will give the Secretary of Education the ability to waive certain funding requirements in order to help school systems gain easier access to badly needed resources.  Without the waiver, schools often have to find matching state or local funding in order to be eligible for federal funds.  As a result of the storms and flooding, however, the local tax base in several Gulf Coast communities is decimated.  The loss of business and government infrastructure, jobs and housing has deprived school districts of local property taxes that normally fund school operations.