Category Government Programs
Title Federal Disaster Aid to Help Students and Schools
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Preview Federal Disaster Aid to Help Students and Schools
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Federal Disaster Aid to Help Students and Schools

President Trump signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (HR1892), which includes assistance to students and schools, both public and private, affected by certain hurricanes and wildfires in 2017. The assistance is designed to help restart schools damaged by the disasters and to help educate students forced to find new schools. 

Specifically, the program provides services, equipment, and supplies to get schools that were in harm's way back on their feet. It also offers schools across the country assistance to help cover the costs of educating displaced students.  

The maximum payment per displaced student is $10,000 for a child who has a disability, $9,000 for a child who is an English learner, and $8,500 for all other children. In the case of private schools, the payment may not exceed the cost of tuition, fees, and transportation expenses at the school.  

The program closely resembles a law enacted to deal with the aftermath of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005.  

Aid to Rebuild Schools  

To be eligible for building aid, a school damaged by a covered disaster must be: (1) located in a state or territory affected by a covered disaster or emergency in 2017; (2) serving an area in which a major disaster has been declared; (3) accredited, licensed, or otherwise operating in accordance with state law; (4) a school that was in existence one week prior to the date on which the major disaster was declared for the area.  

Although private schools are not eligible for direct funds, they are entitled to services, equipment, and materials that are secular, neutral, and nonideological (the criteria for similar assistance under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ). The assistance must be used for specific purposes, such as the replacement of information systems, the rental of instructional space, the replacement of instructional materials, textbooks and equipment, and various other activities specified in the law.  

The program requires states to set aside a portion of funds for assistance and services to private schools. The share must be at least equal to the share of private school students in the state. Thus, if private school students account for 20 percent of the elementary and secondary school students in the state, the state must set aside at least 20 percent of funds for services and assistance to those schools.  

The law states that services and assistance to private school students "shall be equitable in comparison to the educational services and other benefits provided for public school students... and shall be provided in a timely manner."  

Aid for Displaced Students  

Another component of the disaster aid provides assistance for the education of students displaced by the covered disasters, whether that education takes place in a public school or a private school.  

For private schools serving displaced students, the assistance flows through the local school district in which the private school is located. The district makes payments to accounts established at the request of the parent or guardian of the displaced student. Private schools then draw funds from the accounts to cover the costs of educating the students.  

To be eligible to participate in this program, a private elementary or secondary school must, again, be accredited or licensed or must otherwise operate in accordance with state law; and must serve at least one displaced student whose parent or guardian has applied for funds.  

Nondiscrimination  

The program requires participating schools not to discriminate against any student (displaced or otherwise) on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, or sex. For schools controlled by religious organizations, the prohibition of religious discrimination does not apply to the enrollment of students other than displaced students. Also, notwithstanding the prohibition of sex discrimination, the program allows for single-sex schools, classes, or activities. Further, to the extent consistent with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the sex discrimination language does not apply to schools where it would violate religious tenets or beliefs.  

Also under the heading of religious practices, a parent or guardian of a displaced student on whose behalf a payment to an account is made may opt to have the child excluded from religious worship or religious classes offered in the private school in which the student is enrolled.  

Reprinted with permission from CAPE Outlook, March 2018. CAPE is the Council for American Private Education. CAPE is a coalition of national organizations and state affiliates serving private elementary and secondary schools.  www.capenet.org    

LLU 28.3

Notice: This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It has been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction, and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.  

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