Two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the
The report urged the federal government to adopt a “new response” to restoring education in the affected areas.
That means “doing a full assessment of what the child-care centers, preschools, and K-12 schools need to restore themselves. That’s a lot different than throwing a few million dollars into a bill as it’s going through the hopper,” said Steve Suitts, the foundation’s program director and author of the report.
Billed as the first overall, independent assessment of education along the
Other findings in the report:
“Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s has the
In fact, the report contends, as of the middle of 2007, foreign nations had supplied $131 million for rebuilding and restoring colleges and universities in
These figures don’t include loans the federal government has made to schools for rebuilding. But in a press conference convened to discuss the report, Suitts said, “Loans don’t help recovery; they just buy time. Schools can’t afford to pay back the loan with interest and still stay afloat.”
During the same press conference, SEF President Lynn Huntley expressed frustration that no federal funds were available to support efforts to locate or re-engage as many as 30,000 K-12 students or more than 60,000 college students who reportedly dropped out of school after Katrina struck.
“The resources that the federal government has provided are grossly inadequate,” Huntley said. “How, in the Information Age, can’t we account for the relatively small number of children affected by Katrina?”
Suitts said the foundation’s report analyzed government data, school records, and private surveys to estimate the scale of damage and displacement after Katrina struck the
House Majority Whip James Clyburn said there are “vast and overwhelming” complexities associated with restoring the region’s public education system.
Clyburn, a Democrat from
“I have seen firsthand that the post-hurricane response to rebuilding the public education infrastructure in the
He added: “I believe that the Southern Education Foundation’s report will serve as an important tool to Congress as we further our efforts to reconstruct schools in the
Hudson La Force, senior counselor to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, said the foundation’s report contains numerous inaccuracies and fails to accurately depict the role of the U.S. Department of Education and others in aiding the recovery of students and families impacted by the hurricanes in the
La Force continued: “Over the past two years, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded more than $2 billion to K-12 and higher-education institutions impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These federal funds are intended to supplement significant other resources, such as private insurance and state funding. The department has received praise from numerous local and state officials on its response and is proud of its ongoing efforts as we continue to work with the impacted states and support the recovery through federal grants, low-interest loans, technical support, and guidance.”
Education officials in
Mississippi Education Superintendent Hank Bounds said K-12 enrollment in the six coastal counties was at nearly 93 percent. Bounds said that although reconstruction of some buildings has been slow, “given everything that has taken place, I think that the schools are doing remarkably well.”
The state’s higher-education system along the coast also appears to be rebounding. Classes have resumed at the
“We’re still down some 20,000 students in our public colleges and universities,” Hardy said. “The Go Grant was initiated to get enrollment up and target those who are most in need of an opportunity for access.”
The Hurricane Education Leadership Program (HELP) Team, a coalition of ed-tech companies and organizations dedicated to rebuilding