U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings was in Houston to visit with evacuee students. She says Houston has done an amazing job of absorbing New Orleans students into the educational system, but acknowledges the schools face a tough financial challenge.
"This year, the president requested $6,000, about $6,000 a student and at the end of the year the congress appropriated about $4,000 and we're hopeful that in the supplemental appropriation that the additional resources will be available for this school year so that we'll be closer to what the president asked for initially."
This week, the Houston Independent School District received more than $13 million from the U.S. Department of Education. HISD had previously set aside nearly that much out of various school accounts to pay for education costs for evacuee students. HISD Superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra says the reimbursement covers about two thirds of the district's total costs for these students.
"The bigger challenge moving forward is this: That the commitment from the Department of Ed. has been for this level of funding to occur this year and this year alone. That's a one-year allocation. Most of these students will come back to us next year. They remain in need of special services, additional supplementary services. We will need to have additional funding so we can provide these students the adequate resources."
HISD has about 5,500 evacuee students enrolled. Spellings says the federal government realizes many of those students may remain in Houston and additional funding will be required. But she says she can't predict what Congress will do.
"There'll be a lot of discussions about it. Obviously people are trying to figure out how many students will be returning to New Orleans, what the needs will be there, I mean -- how will the students shake out and where are the resources appropriately needed. And sort of 'to be determined' on next school year. But our first order of business is to make sure that schools have adequate resources to finish out this year properly."
Many districts in the area have taken in evacuee students and are seeking more money for the effort. HISD also received a pledge of $3.5 million in charitable contributions. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.