On October 24, 2017, members of Congress wrote a letter to Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, and Director of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, with recommendations for education agencies in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.
The US Department of Education will make recommendations for supplemental appropriations in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Currently, less than 30 of Puerto Rico’s 1,112 public schools had running water and basic supplies, and virtually none of the island’s schools have electricity, the letter notes.
To address the immediate and long-term needs of children and schools in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, the letter gives the following recommendations:
- Immediate financial assistance to restart school operation sin school districts hit hard by the hurricanes.
- Immediate financial assistance for initiating and maintaining education and support services for those school systems receiving students and families from evacuated areas in amount no less than the receiving schools’ average per pupil spending level, so that they may provide the appropriate educational, language, social, and mental health services to affected students.
- Flexibility to use federal financial assistance for capital costs of repairing and rebuilding schools and related facilities, as well as immediate financial assistance for such costs.
- Flexibility to allow all schools in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to provide three free meals per day to all students for the remainder of this school year as is being done in Houston Independent School District
- The maintenance of continuity of student aid, including Pell grants and loans for affected students for the current school year.
- The provision of extended grace period for repayment of student loans.
- Supplemental health services for students and staff most impacted by the storms.
The letter urges Secretary Devos to work with Congress to “ensure the needs of students, families, and school staff are met through robust supplemental appropriations for public schools in Hurricane-impacted areas.”
The following representatives joined in signing the letter: Rep. Jennifer González Colón (R-PR), Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-UVI), Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-VA), Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Rep. Mark Desaulnier (D-CA), Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Salud O. Carbajal (D-CA), Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty (D-CT), Rep. Alma S. Adams (D-NC), Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Donald Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD), Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC), Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Stephan Lynch (D-MA), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rep. Gregorio Camacho Sablan (D-NMI), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX).