Statement by the President Upon Signing the School Disaster Aid Act.
THE LEGISLATION! have approved today--H.R. 9022, the School Disaster Aid Act--recognizes a national responsibility to share the burden of assisting schools in communities which are struck by major disasters.
It recognizes that we must not allow the unpredictable forces of nature to disrupt the education which our children so vitally need.
In early September I saw with my own eyes the terrible devastation that was visited upon the Mississippi Delta region by a great storm. Members of the Congress accompanied me to that ravaged area. Every community in America poured out its sympathy.
We all know only too wall that there is not a region of this country which can be confident that it will not suffer from an uncontrollable and unforeseeable catastrophe.
Flooding in the Mississippi Delta, or an earthquake in Alaska--these events are an inevitable consequence of man's continual battle with nature.
We are, and we should be, concerned when any school is put out of operation by a disaster. This bill will augment the assistance now being advanced to schools in major disaster areas by the Federal Government under the Federal Disaster Act (Public Law 81-875). The Nation will lend a helping hand as local communities rebuild schools damaged by hurricane, flood, or earthquake; as they replace books and desks and essential tools of learning; as they return school operations to normal after a great catastrophe. This new authority is limited to disasters occurring within a two-year period and we will carefully examine its operation in relation to other disaster assistance programs to determine whether it should later be continued or revised.
Physically handicapped and mentally retarded children will be aided by this bill which extends the benefits of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to schools for deaf, speech-impaired, visually handicapped, emotionally disturbed, and crippled children. These children require special education programs which are extremely costly. It is fitting that we should recognize this need and assist our States and local school districts to educate all their children--even these for whom education is so difficult and expensive to provide. I am particularly pleased that Congress included this provision in the bill.
This bill also includes an amendment to the impacted areas education legislation (Public Law 81-874) which will provide funds to schools attended by substantial numbers of children of the military and civilian personnel of the Federal Government on the same basis for our large cities as for our smaller communities. Both large and small school districts will now be eligible for impacted areas aid if three percent of the children in the schools are there because of the Federal Government's activities in the area.
The entire impacted areas program is currently being reviewed in the light of a recent study completed at the request of Congress, and in the light of the relationship between this program and other recently enacted Federal education legislation. This is but one aspect of this Administration's firm commitment to be responsive to the need for constructive and comprehensive changes in existing legislation and to eliminate unnecessary expenditures.
This legislation also makes certain adjustments resulting from the base closing announcement of November 19, 1964. Some school districts had made plans for school construction under the impacted areas education legislation (Public Law 81-815) and had gone forward with their plans on the basis of their expectations that they would remain eligible for aid. This bill restores their eligibility because the facilities will shortly be required for new residents in these areas.
Finally, this legislation takes a further step in improving the educational resources of the Nation by providing more funds for our State educational agencies. I want especially to congratulate Senator Mansfield and Senator Metcalf for sponsoring this provision which gives each State department of education no less than $75,000 for administering programs for disadvantaged children under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
I also would like to congratulate Congressman William Ford who, as a freshman member of the House of Representatives, was the original sponsor of H.R. 902.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON
Note: In his statement the President referred to Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, majority leader of the Senate, Senator Lee Metcalf of Montana, and Representative William D. Ford of Michigan.
As enacted, the School Disaster Aid Act is Public Law 89-313 (79 Stat. 1158).
For the President's remarks of April 11 upon signing she Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, see Item 181.
The statement was released at Austin, Tex.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing the School Disaster Aid Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/241133