New interagency task force will streamline process to provide supplies quickly
November 1, 2005
Contacts: Chad Colby, Elaine Quesinberry|
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced a new federal initiative, the Furniture For Schools Task Force, to streamline the process for getting furniture and other supplies to schools affected by the recent hurricanes. On behalf of Secretary Spellings, Assistant Secretary Henry Johnson joined the Secretary's Regional Representative Kristine Cohn for a visit to the Second Street Elementary School in Bay St. Louis, Miss., today to discuss the new task force formed by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Logistics Agency, the General Services Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Numerous schools in the Gulf Coast region were heavily damaged or destroyed by the recent hurricanes and many schools are serving displaced students. This new task force allows federal agencies to combine their resources and expertise to quickly provide surplus desks, computers, printers, filing cabinets, bookshelves and room dividers to schools in these devastated areas. Already, the task force has arranged for nearly 1,100 desks to go to school districts in the hardest hit areas of Mississippi and Louisiana.
"Across the country, we are seeing families, communities and schools open their hearts and doors to children displaced by the hurricanes," Secretary Spellings said. "We are committed to doing everything we can to help local communities provide educational opportunities for these children. The Furniture For Schools Task Force will ensure that surplus federal government property is made available to schools in the most devastated areas. Every day we are also matching schools' needs with private donations through the Hurricane Help for Schools Web site. Americans have given generously to help these schools and to restore a sense of structure and normalcy to the lives of displaced students."
"GSA is proud to be a part of this coordinated effort to help the children impacted by the recent hurricanes, by serving as the facilitator and operational manager for determining priorities and helping to identify the property available," said GSA Acting Administrator David L. Bibb. "The Task Force members are already hard at work to match schools with much-needed furniture and supplies, such as desks, bookshelves and computers."
The Department of Education maintains the Hurricane Help for Schools website, www.ed.gov/Katrina, as a clearinghouse, which matches schools seeking assistance and the items that they need with donations available from companies, organizations and individuals to meet those needs. Schools may post their contact information and the private donors may contact them directly, or donors may list supplies and resources that they are able to provide. Currently, over 420 matches have been made between schools and private donors. The Department is also working continuously to stay in contact with the chief state school officers, state departments of education, and school districts to identify schools' needsespecially those without electricity or Internet access.
In addition to the new task force and the Web page, Secretary Spellings is leading a number of other efforts to help the students affected by the hurricane. Recently, in Jackson, Miss., she announced a new brochure and a series of roundtable meetings of education officials, mental-health experts, teachers and school officials to gather information about the hurricanes' impact on displaced children and the schools that have welcomed these students. The roundtables will be held over the next few months in hurricane-impacted areas. The Bush Administration has proposed a $2.6 billion education package to assist displaced students and the schools that are serving them.
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