Many N.O. Schools Aren't "Up and Going Again"

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Many N.O. Schools Aren't "Up and Going Again"

(Above) A public school damaged by Katrina -- notice the faint water line about 2 feet up the side of the building, a remnant of the floodwaters.

President Bush, speaking yesterday at a New Orleans school:
"... one of the great signs of recovery all along the Gulf Coast are the schools that are up and going again. A lot of them are in temporary buildings or portable buildings, but they have plans to rebuild.
At last count, only 53 schools "are up and going again." That's 53 compared with 117 pre-Katrina public schools in New Orleans.

Some say that there's no sense in repairing and reopening additional schools until the demand is there. But the fact is that the demand is there. Part of the proof is that a number of public charter schools in New Orleans have waiting lists. (Many of the 53 open public schools are charter schools.) And, even if there aren't dozens of students living in the city without a school to attend, getting more schools opened is a classic case of "if you build it, they will come." Even the president seems to grasp this:
"We know that families can't move back unless there's schools for the kids. And so education is one of the most important parts of the recovery."
Indeed. Unfortunately, my understanding is that FEMA funds won't pay for portable or temporary school buildings; FEMA will only pay for repairs to pre-existing, now-closed schools. Of course, these repairs take time, delaying the process of getting more schools "up and going again."

It would be nice for Bush to issue an executive order or take some other action to make FEMA funding more flexible.

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