Gov’t assistance should go equitably to all schools affected by Katrina, says US Bishop Conference secretary

.- Assistance to schools affected by the hurricanes should be provided equitably to all, without regard to the type of school, the secretary for education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) told the education committees in Congress.

“The hurricanes did not distinguish between public, private or religious schools at any level: pre-school, elementary, secondary, or postsecondary,” said Sr. Glenn Anne McPhee, OP, in a letter sent Oct. 5 to all members of Congress. The House Education and the Work Force Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee will be evaluating the portfolio.

She said she has “significant reservations” about the decision by Congress to use No Child Left Behind as a model for providing aid.

"Eligibility to receive assistance should not require a means test or a minimum number of displaced or impacted students enrolled in a school,” said Sr. McPhee. “That assistance should be crafted in such a way as to enable schools to meet the wide list of needs of displaced children."

Expediting aid is paramount, she said. Sr. McPhee, a former Catholic schools superintendent, also recommended a streamlined approach so that aid reaches schools “in the most expeditious manner.”

Sr. McPhee also does not believe that adding yet another program to the NCLB will “change the situation for the better.” She also said asking school administrators to engage in a consultation process, after all the long hours they are working to accommodate displaced youth, is “unfair and unrealistic.”

Sr. McPhee said the Catholic school community in the two most impacted areas—Louisiana and Texas—has assured the USCCB that the NCLB procedure would be totally unresponsive to their immediate and pressing needs. She said the USCCB staff is willing to work with all parties to craft appropriate legislation to address the situation.

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