Hurricane Katrina’s 372,000 displaced school children have become pawns in a political game they never signed up for. While scores of public, private and religious schools have taken them in, the question before Congress is whether to reimburse all host schools, or just the public ones.
Louisiana’s Republican and Democrat Senators want all schools reimbursed, as does President Bush. Opponents, including the National Education Association and the National School Boards Association, only want to help Katrina kids if they go to public schools.
But even Ted Kennedy, the biggest opponent of school choice in the Senate, has now relented to some degree. He’s willing to help Katrina kids stay in private schools as long as the funds are funneled through public schools first, no doubt so local government school systems can get their cut.
The problem here is that the New Orleans public schools were widely seen as abysmal even before the hurricane flooded them. That’s why roughly one-third of the children from the most damaged communities in Louisiana were going to private schools before Katrina hit.
Some of the children displaced by Katrina came to Oregon with their parents. Political games in Washington, D.C. shouldn’t keep them from attending private schools here if that’s their family’s choice. Oregon’s U.S. Senators and Representatives owe it to these kids to make their positions clear.
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