SPRINGFIELD – Nearly two weeks after Governor Blagojevich directed Illinois schools to waive residency requirements and immediately enroll children displaced by Hurricane Katrina, more than 400 children are enrolled in 46 school districts across the state. Districts worked quickly to welcome children into their classrooms and partnered with other state and local agencies to provide support for the children and their families. Some of the students traveled to Illinois on flights arranged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), while others traveled to Illinois alone or with their families to stay with friends, family or in campgrounds and shelters.
“Illinois is proud to host thousands of people forced out of their homes and communities by Hurricane Katrina. Since we opened our doors to the hurricane’s youngest victims, more than 400 children have found places to learn and play,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “While their communities begin to rebuild, Illinois will continue to provide a quality education for these children – because that’s what they deserve. “
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has developed a webpage with resources for schools enrolling children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The site http://www.isbe.net/katrina/default.htm
, highlights the hotlines Governor Blagojevich put in place to help hurricane victims and lists resources available to schools and people who want to help by purchasing Hurricane Relief Student Supply Kits and Hurricane Relief Teacher Supply Kits.
To help teachers who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the Illinois State Board of Education took emergency action today to help teachers from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The Board’s action followed calls from teachers in the Katrina damaged areas seeking the chance to teach in Illinois. The Board enacted an emergency rule today that helps people who are qualified to serve as substitute teachers but who may not have immediate access to their documentation because their records were destroyed in the hurricane.
“We’ve had calls from experienced teachers in the Gulf states whose homes and classrooms have been destroyed and whose students have been evacuated,” said State Superintendent Randy Dunn. “These teachers want to work and teach children wherever they can. Our staff worked quickly on a recommendation to take to the State Board for immediate action to help these people.”
“We know that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many displaced people will be looking for work outside the devastated area,” said State Board Chairman Jesse Ruiz. “Just as our schools have opened their doors to students displaced by the storm’s devastation, we want to help the educators who have been displaced by the disaster. The State Board took action today to put emergency rules in place to allow these teachers to have a chance to do what they’ve been trained to do—teach and help children.”
The State Board approved an emergency rule that offers individuals from the area affected by the hurricane a temporary permit for substitute teaching in Illinois schools, provided that they indicate that they have completed a bachelor’s degree. The rule allows the teachers to get a short-term, non-renewable permit. It also includes flexibility to extend those certificates as needed and a provision to withdraw a certificate if individuals either misrepresent their eligibility or disqualify themselves.
The temporary certificates will not have an application fee or a registration fee. Each applicant will undergo a criminal background check as part of the normal procedures for employment in Illinois schools.
The emergency rule goes into effect immediately and will be filed with the Secretary of State.
Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29th, Gov. Blagojevich ordered all state agencies to respond in a coordinated manner to help recovery and cleanup efforts in the Gulf Coast, and victims coming into Illinois:
- Arriving on four flights arranged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Illinois has received more than 430 displaced victims from the Gulf Coast states. Individuals and families, upon arrival received immediate medical care and were provided housing from the state in Tinley Park, Elgin, Alton and Rockford. An additional 4,000 displaced victims arrived in Illinois by their own means, according to the Red Cross. Governor Blagojevich announced on September 4th, Illinois is ready to receive as many as 10,000 displaced victims, and has called elected officials, community leaders, not-for-profit organizations, religious institutions and social service providers to match the State of Illinois’ coordinated relief effort to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
- Gov. Blagojevich deployed more than 1,600 Illinoisans to help Louisiana respond to the devastation resulting from Hurricane Katrina. The deployments include nearly 600 firefighters and 800 National Guard troops.
- The Illinois Department of Employment Security is helping displaced victims process unemployment claims and facilitating job searches and job training. IDES and Central Management Services employees have set up remote computer stations in the state facilities in Tinley Park and Alton where the first displaced victims arrived, and are in the process of setting up the same services in Elgin and Rockford, where more evacuees arrived this week.
- A group of 100 state employees traveled to Louisiana to help the Louisiana Department of Social Services reach out to victims in remote areas of the state. The volunteers include clerical employees, security personnel, information technology specialists, drivers and mechanics.
- The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has reached out to state-chartered banks and thrifts and asked them to provide free check cashing, eliminate ATM service fees and help establish checking and saving accounts for displaced victims now residing in Illinois.
- The Illinois Department of Revenue has extended filing deadlines to taxpayers from counties damaged by Hurricane Katrina and who owe Illinois taxes, until October 31, 2005.
- Illinois established a hotline to provide Hurricane Katrina victims with immediate assistance regarding social services offered by the State of Illinois, including health care, crisis counseling, food stamps, K-12 public school registration, and services for veterans, seniors and persons with disabilities. The number, 1-800-843-6154 is staffed by the Department of Human Services.
- A total of 134 highly trained law enforcement officers from state and local agencies were deployed to Louisiana. These include Weapons of Mass Destruction teams, Tactical Response teams, Underwater Dive teams, a mobile command post, various all terrain vehicles, boats and trucks.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation contributed 500 yards of fencing and 500 stakes on two lowboys pulled by two semis that will be in the law enforcement convoy.
- The Governor dispatched a total of 52 members of the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Teams (IMERT) to Louisiana to assist with care of the massive number of sick and injured victims from Hurricane Katrina, and dispatched an 11-member Incident Management Team to George County, Mississippi to assist local emergency managers during the crisis.
- The state’s 39 community colleges will accommodate any Illinois resident displaced from higher education studies because of the hurricane, while Illinois’ 12 public universities will also take in students affected by the destruction along the Gulf Coast. Students are encouraged to contact admissions offices at each university to being an expedited process to enroll in the institution and to access university services like financial aid.
- The Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency have offered free camping and removed length of stay requirements for Hurricane victims at all state parks and historic sites that offer camping.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation waived certain transportation rules to allow standard-sized semis carrying supplies and materials to Louisiana to be overweight by up to 15,000 pounds when they travel on Illinois roads. Currently, a standard-sized semi is only allowed to weigh 80,000 pounds when traveling through Illinois. IDOT will also grant emergency permits to companies that need to move oversized equipment to the impacted area.
- The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) made available various items through IEMA’s emergency procurement system including 256,000 half pints of water, 8,500 blankets, 18,300 clothing items, and 2,900 dozen packages of cleaning supplies. IDOC has also delivered 3,000 bedrolls to the Red Cross in Hillside.
- The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs sent toiletries and food to facilities where displaced victims have been housed, and in collaboration with several other federal and private agencies will send food to the Gulf Coast states.
- The Department of Central Management Services made available its Bureau of Communication and Computer Services (BCCS) to help provide communications assistance to devastated areas. Using broadband services, including high speed data transmission to remote areas underserved by local carriers, BCCS can provide relief command centers with uplinks for phone and internet access, and also links to shelters so displaced individuals can call loved ones.
- The Department of Human Services sent staff skilled in processing Food Stamps, to help the United States Department of Agriculture implement a Disaster Food Stamp program in 25 Louisiana counties.
- The Illinois Department of Agriculture made available to the Illinois State Police the Expo Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds as a staging area to consolidate personnel, equipment and supplies in preparation for deployment.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health dispatched twelve specialists to Louisiana. The specialists are members of four environmental health strike teams being sent by the state at the request of the Louisiana Emergency Management Agency. Their expertise includes drinking water, sewage, food safety and food salvage. In addition, two IEPA trucks stocked with emergency response equipment and two IPDH vehicles were deployed.