$489M coming to Ohio schools to fill gaps, but there are clear winners and losers

Ohio’s K-12 schools will receive at least $489 million in federal money to offset last week’s $355 million state budget cut, but because the federal and state approaches use very different formulas, some schools will come out of the current trade-off way ahead and others way behind.

The reason? The federal CARES Act allocates more of its money to schools that serve a lot of poor families, as the formula is tied to specific funding for low-income students (Title I, Part A money).

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.

If you subtract last week’s announced state cuts from the new incoming CARES money, low-income districts come out ahead. In the region, 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).

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.”

RELATED: Special education at home could set some kids “way back”

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.

RELATED: State school board takes voluntary pay cut

“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.

About the Author