The disaster relief bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week includes $2.9 billion in emergency education funding to support a bipartisan initiative led by U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Fla. The funding will help school districts in Florida and other states address the increased costs they are experiencing as they enroll new students from hurricane-stricken areas like Puerto Rico. Murphy, in response to concerns from central Florida school districts, has spearheaded the push for this emergency education funding over the past three months. She led bipartisan letters in October and December in support of her initiative and worked closely with the White House Office of Management and Budget, congressional leaders in the House and Senate, and local school districts.
“Florida is welcoming displaced families from Puerto Rico with open arms,” said Murphy. “These families have endured so much hardship, and we want to ease their burden, not increase it. However, our state—especially our public school system—needs federal support to offset these new costs. The funding that we have worked so hard to secure will enable school districts to provide a high-quality education to both new and existing students.”
This emergency education funding will be critical for schools in the states, especially Florida, that are enrolling displaced students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the last three months, Florida public schools have enrolled approximately 10,000 displaced students from these two U.S. territories. The public school system in Orange County, part of which Murphy represents, has already enrolled 2,733 students from Puerto Rico—more than any other public school system in the United States.
The House is scheduled to vote on the broader $81 billion disaster relief bill this week before it heads to the U.S. Senate for a vote.
About the New Funding
Under the bill released this week, a state can apply to the U.S. Department of Education to receive federal funding according to the following terms:
• $9,000 for enrolling a displaced student who is an English-language learner
• $10,000 for enrolling a displaced student with disabilities
• $8,500 for enrolling a displaced student who does not fit either of the above criteria
As Murphy requested, in addition to providing funding for K-12 schools, the bill provides funding to institutions of higher education that were directly affected by a hurricane (up to $200 million) or that enroll students displaced by a hurricane (up to $120 million). The bill also provides up to $25 million to local educational agencies serving homeless children displaced by a hurricane.