As Puerto Rico recovers from Hurricane Maria, two politicians from Florida are calling on the U.S. to do more to help impacted students attend schools in the Sunshine State and other parts of the nation.
Noting that Congress did something similar in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other storms, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., is calling on congressional leaders to send emergency federal funds to schools now enrolling students who fled Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Murphy rounded up 29 other members of Congress to sign a letter to U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-NJ, the chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-NY, the ranking Democrat on the committee, urging them to support her proposal. The Central Florida Democrat also sent copies to U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Ok., the chairman of the U.S. House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the ranking Democrat on that subcommittee.
“Our nation must stand united in times of crisis,” Murphy said on Thursday. “Right now, our American brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, as well as the states that are welcoming them in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, deserve our support.
“My bipartisan initiative will help schools and universities in Florida and other states cover the increased costs of educating new students from Puerto Rico without compromising the quality of education for existing students,” Murphy added. “We must do everything we can to help all of America’s children succeed.”
Murphy noted that Congress sent $880 million to elementary and secondary schools Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi in 2005 after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005 and insisted her proposal was similar. She also noted that many Puerto Rican students will need English as a second language courses.
Most of the representatives who signed off on Murphy’s letter were Democrats though some Republicans including U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida also joined. Florida Democrats U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Val Demings, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Darren Soto and Frederica Wilson also signed the letter.
In the meantime, in the Sunshine State, on Friday, Gov. Rick Scott ordered the Florida Department of Education (DOE) to help Puerto Rican students impacted by Hurricane Maria go to school in Florida. This includes foregoing application fees and other regulations so Puerto Rican teachers can teach in the Sunshine State.
“As Puerto Rican families work to rebuild their lives following the unbelievable devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, we are doing everything we can to help them throughout this process," Scott said. “I have directed the Department of Education to take additional action today to ensure students from Puerto Rico can more easily continue their education here in Florida and that teachers from Puerto Rico have every opportunity to continue to succeed in their careers. We will continue to work together to make sure Puerto Rican families have all the support they need.”