Galveston County school districts have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars transporting students displaced by Hurricane Harvey, but have largely not received reimbursement for those additional costs, officials have said.
The U.S. Congress, as part of an almost $90 billion disaster relief bill, approved dedicating $25 million for programs funded under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, but local districts have not yet seen that money, officials said.
The McKinney-Vento Act is a 1987 federal law classifying students displaced because of natural disasters as homeless and requiring school districts to transport students forced to live outside the district’s geographic range.
Hurricane Harvey hovered over Texas from Aug. 25 until Aug. 31. Although initially forecast to drop 20 inches of rain as it approached the coast, the storm would end up dropping more than 50 inches on some parts of Galveston County.
An estimated 20,000 homes in Galveston County were flooded during Hurricane Harvey, sending families and children to hotels, shelters and temporary housing in the county and elsewhere.
The northern-most communities were those hit hardest by the storm, including League City and Dickinson, among others.
Clear Creek Independent School District spent more than $175,000 transporting about 220 students in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, said Paul McLarty, deputy superintendent of business and support services.
About 2,930 students were affected by Hurricane Harvey, but all of those might not have been eligible under the McKinney-Vento Act, McLarty said.
Dickinson, likewise, spent about $118,000 transporting 1,276 McKinney-Vento-eligible students after the storm, said Tammy Dowdy, spokeswoman for the district.
Neither district as of Friday had received reimbursement for those costs, officials said.
But Santa Fe, which spent $74,100 transporting McKinney-Vento students, has received $18,000 in grant funding for those costs, said Patti Hanssard, spokeswoman for the district.
Santa Fe district officials did not respond to follow-up questions about where the grant money came from, however, and weren’t sure how many students fell under the act.
Texas Education Agency officials on May 7 asked area districts to apply for grants and said they would soon have funding for students and districts that were affected by Harvey.
“Though TEA is still awaiting final guidelines and requirements for these grants, the funds must be distributed on a very tight timeline,” said Cory Green, associate commissioner with the Texas Education Agency.
Officials said the grant application would open midway through May, but have not released updates since.