PFAW Applauds Compromise Katrina Educational Relief

People For the American Way president Ralph G. Neas praised a compromise on educational support for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina that was reached Monday night. In an amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, the Senate agreed to provide additional aid to affected schools by increasing funding through Title V of the No Child Left Behind Act instead of the one-year federally funded voucher that was authorized last year.

“This compromise represents the right approach to funding education for students displaced by Katrina,” said PFAW President Ralph G. Neas. “More public resources will go where they are needed in public schools.”

In the aftermath of Katrina, PFAW opposed the creation of a voucher program as part of the recovery effort. Despite opposition from religious liberty and civil rights groups, Congress went forward with just such an initiative. The program has already been shown to be a bureaucratic mess that failed to deliver aid to the schools that needed it most.

When the program was originally passed in 2005, Senators of both parties made clear that the program would last for only one year. Despite this commitment, Senator Hutchison had attached an amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill that would have extended and expanded the failing program.

“I want to thank Senators Kennedy, Enzi, and Dodd and all those who worked behind the scenes to bring this voucher program to an end and to come up with a real solution that helps the children who need it most,” said Neas. “We hope that this will be the last attempt to use the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina to advance an ideologically charged agenda such as federally funded private school vouchers.”

PFAW originally advocated for funding to be allocated through schools through Title I, which distributes resources based on the percentage of disadvantaged students in a given school. However, the legislation agreed upon instead sends money through public schools under Title V of the NCLB, which supports educational equity and innovative education programs, including assistance for special education and bilingual students.

Said Neas, “I’m delighted with the final form of the bill. By allocating funds through Title V we have maintained the necessary separation between the federal government and private schools. This not only ensures that public dollars are spent on public services, but also protects against potential civil rights and religious liberty violations.”

The legislation was introduced as a manager’s amendment in the Senate and passed by unanimous consent on the evening of May 1.

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