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Public Statements

The Introduction of the ``Midwest Schools Disaster Relief Act''

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Madam Speaker, the Midwest has been hard-hit by record flooding in recent months, disrupting the lives of the farmers, homeowners, and families of my Illinois Congressional District. Flood damage to schools alone is expected to reach nearly $100 million, and as a result some schools will not open in the fall. Those schools able to open their doors are desperately trying to get ready for the upcoming school year, but repairs and cleanup are ongoing.

* Moreover, many schools will see an influx of flood-displaced students, while others will face financial challenges due to the loss of students and property values where the schools are located. I have heard from several regional superintendents in my district, particularly Mr. Ralph Grimm of West Central Community Unit School District No. 235 in Henderson County, with concerns that this situation will make it difficult for them to make ends meet in the coming school year.

* To address short- and long-term needs, immediate education disaster assistance for flood-impacted schools is necessary to ensure that students continue to receive a quality education in the aftermath of this disaster. As such, I proudly introduce the Midwest Schools Disaster Relief Act.

* Similarly to the assistance Congress approved after Hurricane Katrina, this bill would:

* Authorize funds to restart school operations. These monies could be used on transportation assistance, to replace damaged textbooks and computers, rent temporary classroom sites, hire additional staff for counseling services, clean up school buildings, and other services and activities.

* Authorize funds for schools to accommodate any displaced students they enroll.

* Prohibit the loss of students due to displacement to count against schools when Federal funding is calculated for the next academic year.

* Waive the Federal requirement that schools maintain their share of financial responsibility in providing education services.

* Ensure the needs of homeless students displaced by flooding are met through the Education for Homeless Youth program.

* The natural disasters of May and June 2008 have adversely affected the economy, agriculture, critical infrastructure, and school districts of the Midwest. As weather-damaged schools prepare to welcome students back in just a few short weeks, we simply cannot stand by and watch our children receive a lower-quality education solely because they live in an area where flooding or storms occurred.

* Madam Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.

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