KENNEDY AND ENZI OFFER RELIEF FOR LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS IMPACTED BY KATRINA AND A CUT ON THE FEES FOR STUDENT LOANS FOR ALL STUDENTS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS STILL NOT PROVIDED ASSISTANCE TO KATRINA SCHOOLS
Washington, DC: Today Senators Kennedy and Enzi offered an amendment to the reconciliation bill that provides one-time, temporary impact aid to local school districts and private schools impacted by Katrina. The measure also cuts fees on student loans so that college is more affordable for all Americans. The amendment takes advantage of extra savings created by the underlying bill through cuts to banks subsidies in the student loan program.
Over 370,000 students have been displaced by the hurricane and with existing resources only 21, of 117 schools in New Orleans are expected to re-open during this school year. President Bush did not include relief for elementary and secondary schools and displaced students in the request for Katrina relief he sent to Congress last week. The aid provided by this amendment would flow through the public school system and maintain public accountability while assisting both public and private schools across the country that have generously taken in thousands of students.
“It’s been two months since this unprecedented disaster struck, and the federal government has still provided no assistance to these schools, these communities, or these children. So many schools in the region and around the country have graciously opened their doors to children without the assistance they deserve. America can do better for the people of the Gulf Coast: we need a response to Katrina that is as generous as the American people are. This measure puts aside politics and ideological battles to get the necessary aid to these schools and to these children without further delay,” Senator Kennedy said. “It also makes the American dream of a college education more affordable for students.”
The measure would reduce origination fees for student borrowers by one half of one percentage point, totaling $1 billion dollars. Under the Katrina relief portion, each eligible district will receive quarterly installment payments for each student enrolled in a given quarter in either a public or a private school in that district. Maximum total payment is $6,000 per student and $7,500 per student with disabilities, not to exceed cost of tuition at private schools. A summary of the bill is below.
In the past several weeks to help develop his education legislation, Senator Kennedy has visited New Orleans, spent time with evacuees at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts and met with recovery experts and officials from the area to determine the best course of action to help get schools back on their feet and accommodate displaced students. He recently met with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and discussed provisions in the proposal for aid to private schools. In these meetings, Kennedy learned that 700 schools and 30 colleges and universities have been damaged and destroyed and an estimated 473,000 elementary, high school and college students have been affected by the disaster, most of whom have been displaced. At a HELP Committee hearing he convened with Senator Enzi, Kennedy heard moving testimony from Superintendent Diane Roussel of Jefferson Parish who said: “Money isn’t always the answer to solving the ills in our public schools, but when we’re talking about equipment, supplies, rebuilding, and maintaining our teaching workforce, money is the answer.”