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Highlights

In August and September 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated large portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast, resulting in nearly 2,000 deaths and severe damage to 305,000 houses and apartments. Thousands of families relocated to communities throughout the United States and enrolled their children in local public or private schools. Some families who remained in the devastated areas enrolled their children in schools other than their home schools because their home schools had been seriously damaged or destroyed. Congress appropriated $880 million for the Temporary Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students (Emergency Impact Aid) program to assist local educational agencies (school districts) and private schools with the costs of educating these displaced students. Funds were for costs incurred during the 2005-2006 school year, and could be used for a variety of purposes, including compensating teachers, purchasing curriculum materials, leasing portable classrooms, providing counseling services, and covering reasonable transportation costs. The U.S. Department of Education (Education) awarded Emergency Impact Aid funds to 49 states and the District of Columbia based on the count of displaced students enrolled on quarterly dates selected by each state, as reported by public and participating private schools. Each quarter, on the basis of these counts, states received $1,500 per displaced student without disabilities and $1,875 per displaced student with disabilities. States could keep up to 1 percent of funds for administrative expenses, and were required to disburse the remaining funds to local school districts. Districts were allowed to spend up to 2 percent of funds for administration and, similar to states, were required to disburse the remaining funds to public and participating private schools within their jurisdictions. Education did not require states or districts to report how funds were used, but directed districts to maintain records of expenditures. While the program we reviewed has expired, legislation was introduced in Congress in 2011 that includes provisions that would require Education to provide emergency impact aid in certain circumstances involving presidentially declared disasters, and would give Education discretion to provide such aid in other circumstances if a state is experiencing a catastrophic incident. On the basis of congressional request, we answered the following questions: (1) What is known about how many students were served by the Emergency Impact Aid program in key states? (2) What challenges, if any, did districts and private schools face in accessing the program or obtaining the required student verification? (3) How did states, districts, and private schools report using the funds and what is known about whether the funds covered the costs of serving displaced students?, and (4) How did Education support states in implementing the program?

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