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Congressman Lloyd Smucker

Representing the 16th District of Pennsylvania

Smucker and Dent: Local School Districts Need Aid to Help Provide for Displaced Puerto Rican Students

December 11, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Lloyd Smucker (PA-16) and Charlie Dent (PA-15) are teaming up to bring attention and aid to local school districts dealing with the substantial influx of Puerto Rican students displaced by Hurricane Maria. Reps. Smucker and Dent wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for additional disaster funding for these school districts.

In the letter, Reps. Smucker and Dent said:

“Eastern Pennsylvania has a large Puerto Rican population, and as a result of Hurricane Maria, many people are moving from Puerto Rico to Pennsylvania to start over. While we are proud to provide support to the victims of this crisis and thankful for the federal government’s ongoing assistance to the island, greater assistance to this issue is necessary to provide for individuals who are traveled to our districts in search of relief, and especially for children who have been affected by this natural disaster.”

Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District has enrolled more than 500 Puerto Rican students following Hurricane Maria, and the 15th Congressional District has enrolled more than 300 students. Reps. Smucker and Dent praised the financial response thus far by the federal government, but continue to call for more action.

The full letter is below.

November 29, 2017

Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi,

We write today regarding our support for supplemental disaster relief funding from the Administration to support school districts and individuals within Pennsylvania. As a result of the destructive impact of Hurricane Maria, communities, and especially school districts are currently dealing with an influx of Puerto Rican students who are fleeing devastated homes.

Eastern Pennsylvania has a large Puerto Rican population, and as a result of Hurricane Maria, many people are moving from Puerto Rico to Pennsylvania to start over. While we are proud to provide support to the victims of this crisis and thankful for the federal government’s ongoing assistance to the island, greater assistance and attention to this issue is necessary to provide for individuals who have traveled to our districts in search of relief, and especially for children who have been affected by this natural disaster.

The arrival of these students has challenged local school districts that do not have the physical or financial resources to meet the demand. Allentown School District alone has enrolled over 200 new Puerto Rican students since the disaster, and Bethlehem Area School District has enrolled 80 new students as well. Moreover, school’s in Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District have enrolled over 500 new Puerto Rican students since the hurricane. Many of these students speak little or no English and have significant emotional, physical, and financial needs. Therefore, these districts have been asked to bear the significant financial burden of opening new facilities and hiring additional Spanish speaking staff members to teach English, provide support, and meet the needs of these children.

These school districts strive to provide a high-quality education to all students, including those who have relocated to our area following this terrible tragedy. We are grateful to you for including funding for the Education Recovery Account within the supplemental disaster funding, and look forward to working with you in the future on this issue.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.

 

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