KENNEDY, ENZI, LANDRIEU WIN SUPPORT FOR LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS IMPACTED BY KATRINA SENATE OVERWHELMINGLY DEFEATS EFFORT TO REOPEN THE IDEOLOGICAL VOUCHERS DEBATE
Washington, DC: Today Senators Kennedy, Enzi, Landrieu, Dodd, and Alexander were successful in their effort to provide 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, taking advantage of extra savings created by the underlying bill through cuts to banks subsidies in the student loan program. Prior to the voice vote in support of their amendment, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to defeat the Ensign-Santorum- Kyl effort to turn the bi-partisan measure into a voucher bill.
“So many schools in the Gulf Coast region and around the country have graciously opened their doors to children without the assistance they deserve. I believe that the response to Katrina should be as generous as the American people are,” Senator Kennedy said. “Today I am proud that the Senate has put aside politics and ideological battles to get the necessary aid to these schools and to these children without further delay. My wife is from Southern Louisiana so we feel a special appreciation for the way that so many schools are ministering to those who lost so much.”
Without this increase in resources only 21 of 117 schools in New Orleans are expected to re- open during this school year. Over 370,000 students have been displaced by the hurricane and currently, 223,000 public and private students from Louisiana remain displaced. Across the country, 444 private schools have opened their doors to displaced students from the Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. The aid provided by this measure 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.The Katrina relief portion of the measure totals $1.66 billion and 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. The measure would also reduce origination fees for student borrowers by one half of one percentage point, totaling approximately $900 million. 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. 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.”