New GAO Report Finds School Districts in Socially Vulnerable Communities Faced Heightened Challenges after Recent Natural Disasters

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New GAO Report Finds School Districts in Socially Vulnerable Communities Faced Heightened Challenges after Recent Natural Disasters

Today, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that found chronic underinvestment in school facilities has left schools vulnerable to natural disasters, prolonging closures and putting states on the hook for billions of dollars. According to the report, school districts serving high proportions of children and families who are low income, people of color, English learners or living with disabilities are the most impacted by natural disasters and often do not have sufficient resources to prepare facilities for disasters or repair facilities damaged by disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Public Assistance program and the Department of Education's Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations program may provide assistance to lessen the financial burden and provide emotional, academic, financial and physical lifting to get schools back on track. However, the report also found that, due to deferred maintenance, many low-income school districts could lose out on that federal disaster recovery assistance, which can be partially withheld from districts to account for the state of facilities before a natural disaster. 

Read the highlights from the report here. The full report is available here.