United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-LA, today was informed by an Obama Administration official that later this week FEMA will announce it will award the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and the Recovery School District (RSD) a lump settlement of $1.8 billion for damages suffered during Hurricane Katrina.
A provision in the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill written by Sen. Landrieu authorizes FEMA to provide a single payment for K-12 schools damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The provision also reduced penalties for insufficient flood insurance and alternate projects, which yielded more than $500 million in savings for Louisiana schools.
"This $1.8 billion lump sum settlement is one of the great victories in our fight for a smarter recovery," Sen. Landrieu said. "It was a battle worth waging and while we would have liked to have received the money sooner, it was worth the wait. This lump sum approach is a much wiser investment of taxpayer dollars and should serve as a model for the right way to rebuild communities following a major disaster. It took a special law to get this done and I was proud to have led that effort with Superintendent Paul Pastorek, Superintendent Paul Vallas and Paul Rainwater. We are grateful to President Obama and his Administration, particularly Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, for working with us to make a smarter, stronger FEMA."
"When I became State Superintendent of Education in early 2007, FEMA had approved approximately $300 million for the schools in New Orleans," said Paul Pastorek, Louisiana's State Superintendent of Education. "We had tremendous challenges ahead of us and school reconstruction in New Orleans was broken. This settlement is the result of the perseverance, commitment and sweat equity of many people, from the Recovery School District, Louisiana Department of Education, Orleans Parish School Board, FEMA, and our contractors. As a result of working smarter and harder together, we have arrived at this point. I am proud of Louisiana, New Orleans, and the federal government today."
"I want to thank FEMA and the Obama administration for their sincere efforts to help us reach final settlement, and I want to acknowledge the efforts of Paul Pastorek, our state superintendent," Said Paul Vallas, Superintendent of the Recovery School District of Louisiana. "Most of all, I want to say thank you to Sen. Landrieu because this day would not have come about if not for her. It was her sheer determination and untiring efforts that enabled us to secure this settlement, along with the flexibility to spend the money in a way that will allow us to build public schools that will serve the needs of the all the children in our city."
"On behalf of the students and parents represented by Orleans Parish School Board, I'd like to thank the President, Senator Landrieu and FEMA who have worked tirelessly to provide the resources we need to provide quality learning environments in our community," said Darryl Kilbert, Orleans Parish School Superintendent. "Our goal is to use these funds to rebuild our facilities, rebuild our system of neighborhood schools and rebuild our community's faith in public education."
The lump sum payment will make it possible for children in New Orleans to attend state of the art educational facilities, accelerate community recovery, and give local leaders the ability to rebuild New Orleans's school system in a comprehensive and strategic manner, instead of using uncoordinated and piecemeal approach.
RSD and OPSB asked FEMA to provide a single payment for reconstruction of New Orleans schools. There were 127 campuses in New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina. Those are being consolidated into 87 campuses under the School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish. The Master Plan, approved in November 2008 by the Orleans Parish School Board and state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, will guide future school renovation and construction.