It's better late than never; the thousands of children who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina are about to get federal assistance with their educations. While Congress took its time finalizing the package, the result is fair and reasonable. Importantly, it does not discriminate against parents who chose a non-public school for their displaced children. Aid is coming in two forms: 1) $645 million is earmarked for covering the costs associated with educating students who fled the disaster. States that took in hurricane victims will receive up to $6,000 per student ($7,500 for special ed students) they have accommodated. The money will flow to local school districts, who will cover the costs of displaced students attending both public and non-public schools. 2) $750 million will be distributed to both public and non-public schools in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to offset the cost of re-opening their doors. Predictably, and shamelessly, NEA's Reg Weaver (a.k.a., "The Grinch") slammed the program, saying the bill is "the worst assault on public education in American history. For the first time ever, taxpayers will be forced to pay for a nationwide voucher program." While the program might be an important precedent, demonstrating Congress's willingness to support the education of private school students, it is mostly a compassionate response to a national tragedy. Still, as Eric Hanushek of the Koret Task Force on Education says, "We would hope that it doesn't take a natural disaster to get everybody to focus on the learning of individual kids that haven't been particularly well served in the past."
"Bush To Sign 'Monumental' School Voucher Law," by Meghan Clyne, New York Sun, December 30, 2005