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Federal Coronavirus Funds Could Help Ohio Address Educational Disparities

Evening building supervisor Randy Allen sweeps the hallways at Orange High School, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Pepper Pike.
Tony Dejak
Evening building supervisor Randy Allen sweeps the hallways at Orange High School, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all schools closed until May 1.

K-12 public schools in Ohio are expecting roughly $460 million from the federal government to help ease the financial burden of the coronavirus pandemic. That amount is based on the state’s share of Title 1 funding for high-poverty schools, and much of it will be distributed to local districts, including charter schools, accordingly.

The money’s coming by way of the CARES Act, or the "Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act," which was signed into law by President Donald Trump two weeks ago.

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said the intention of this federal assistance is to help schools with coronavirus-related expenses.

“Those resources will be available to schools and districts for a broad range of purposes,” said DeMaria, “including addressing things like buying computers, supporting internet connectivity and those kind of things.”

The COVID-19 outbreak and the school closures have forced many school districts to scramble to ensure students have the technology and internet connection they need to keep up with online school curriculum. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District recently conducted a survey that found two-thirds of its students don’t have computers or similar devices.

DeMaria acknowledges that the pandemic is making the equity issues in Ohio “more pronounced" and forcing districts that deal with more poverty to work even harder to ensure their students don’t fall behind.

“Cleveland has been so great at stepping up to absolutely try to do their best to deliver services to all their students. And I think what they're doing is the same thing that we see happening around the state,” said DeMaria. “There are also places that have been putting wireless servers on buses and then stationing those buses in different parts of their districts.”

In addition to the funding for K-12 schools, the CARES Act will include another $100 million for Gov. Mike DeWine's Emergency Education Relief Fund to be distributed at his office's discretion to local educational agencies that have been “significantly impacted by COVID-19.”

Under state order, K-12 schools are closed until May 1. DeWine said he will revisit whether schools should remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

Do you have questions about Ohio's coronavirus response? Ask WOSU below as part of our Curious Cbus series.