The CARES Act was signed into law in late March, with rules well publicized in April. But when Ohio budget officials decided how to divvy up their own school cuts district-by-district in early May, they didn’t match them up to which districts would be getting the bulk of the $13.2 billion in CARES Act funding.
Asked about the $9.2 million in CARES Act funding, Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said only that the money “supports the costs that have been mounting with this pandemic.” She expressed more dissatisfaction with the $2 million state cut.
“To reduce funding to education at a time when even more support to help schools ‘recover’ lost learning as well as the social emotional needs of our students, families and staff is disheartening,” Lolli said in an email.
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Beavercreek Superintendent Paul Otten said he understands why the state had to make its cuts, but called it “unfortunate” that Beavercreek, which receives comparatively little state aid, took such a big state cut.
“The federal CARES allotment for Beavercreek City Schools represents one of the smallest allocations per student in the state,” Otten said. “Clearly, the CARES money is not a lifeline for the district to offset these (state) financial losses.”
If you subtract last week’s announced state cuts from the new incoming CARES money, low-income districts come out ahead. Springfield, Middletown and Hamilton schools will each be about $2 million ahead (roughly $3 million in CARES funding, minus $1.1 million or less in state cuts). Trotwood will be $1.4 million ahead, Northridge $1 million ahead, and West Carrollton $515,000.
On the flip side, wealthier Lakota, Beavercreek and Centerville each will lose between $1.6 million and $2.1 million (as smaller influxes of CARES money aren’t enough to offset last week’s state cuts). Springboro will lose $1.2 million in the tradeoff, Lebanon $785,000 and Bellbrook $495,000.
‘A gloomy scenario’
Ohio schools will have to submit an application to ODE to receive the CARES money they’ve been allotted, according to ODE spokeswoman Mandy Minick. She said the application should be available next week, and schools will be able to access the funds before June 30, on a reimbursement basis.
While the total value of the CARES aid is more than the announced state cuts, Ohio’s next school funding question is what happens in 2020-21. State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said this week that 2020-21 cuts are very possible, as Ohio’s revenue loss for the coming year could be “multiple billions.” He referred to upcoming years’ budgets as “a gloomy scenario.”
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Another round of federal stimulus money to offset future cuts is possible, but with 2020 an election year and the two houses of Congress split between Republican and Democratic control, there’s lots of uncertainty.
The CARES Act did allocate another $105 million to be spread across Ohio’s K-12 and higher education institutions, in the form of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. But ODE officials said late Thursday they’re still talking to Gov. Mike DeWine’s office about possible plans for that money.
Charter school funding
Ohio’s Office of Budget and Management announced Thursday that charter and STEM schools will see a $9.46 million total cut in state funding in June ($88.76 per student, or roughly 1 percent of their total state funding).
Meanwhile, many local charters are on track to receive significant federal CARES money, as they are similar to high-poverty district schools.
Dayton’s DECA charter school chain will lose $112,000 in state money, but will get a $1.028 million federal boost, coming out over $900,000 ahead, according to state documents. The three local Horizon Science schools will lose only $59,000 from the state, but get $614,000 from CARES. Emerson Academy will also come out more than $500,000 ahead.
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“I don’t think the CARES Act was ever expected to be an exchange (for state cuts),” said Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Fordham Institute, which sponsors the DECA schools. “It was specifically to help with coronavirus-related expenses and has some limitations in how it can be spent.”
CARES funding is supposed to go to “K-12 students whose educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus,” according to U.S. Department of Education documents.
The state’s two largest online charter schools — Ohio Virtual Academy and Ohio Connections Academy — are slated to receive a combined $5.15 million in CARES money, despite seeing comparatively little change in their operations this spring. Those two schools are losing a combined $1.43 million in the state cuts.
Private school money
Part of the $355 million state cut to K-12 schools was a $7.77 million cut to Catholic and other private schools, which get state money to perform certain state-required administrative activities.
The federal CARES Act includes $37 million that public schools are obligated to spend on “equitable services” spending for nonpublic schools.