HISD Receives Katrina Relief

The Houston School District is finally getting some federal money to help coverthe costs of educating thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuee children. HoustonPublic Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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HISD is getting 13.9 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Education, which spokesman Terry Abbott says the district is grateful to get, but it will only cover about two thirds of the unbudgeted cost of absorbing and teaching the Katrina kids.

"We expect by the end of the school year it will have cost us about 20 million dollars for the five thousand or so hurricane evacuees we still have."

Abbott says HISD is one of many Texas school districts that were hit hard by the flood of evacuee children after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. FEMA has reimbursed only 171 thousand dollars so far, but the private sector is helping out with pledges of three and a half million dollars from the Bush-Clinton Houston Hurricane Relief Fund, The Houston Katrina/Rita Fund and the Barbara Bush Texas Fund for Family Literacy. Abbott says wherever the money comes from, the district will put all of it to good uses.

"So many of the New Orleans children came to us substantially behind where their counterparts in Texas were. So we will use a good chunk of this money to provide extra tutoring and extra counseling for these kids to try to help to get them up to speed."

Abbott says district officials don't expect to get back all the money it has spent and will spend on the evacuee children. He says at best, they'll get about 90 percent of it because Congressional appropriations for local reimbursements fell short of covering actual costs - not just in Houston but all over the country. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.