Ohio Educators Question COVID Funding Needs

COLUMBUS, Ohio — What will learning look like in the fall?

That's still a question without a definitive answer in Ohio as districts adjust to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a high school teacher in a rural northwest Ohio community, Holly Kimpon, president of the Genoa Area Education Association, says funding is a major concern.

She says her district has already been forced to reduce pay for some advisers and support personnel.

"There's a lot of talk of what could happen and most of it is cuts to things that directly affect the kids," she states. "And it's heartbreaking for our students who really need those services."

The federal HEROES Act, which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, provides up to $60 billion in aid to local school districts.

Greenon Local Schools teacher Heather Stambaugh says it could help schools retain staff and pay for laptops to support distance learning.

"If there is a second wave, or keeping all students in the building is not feasible, we're not sending children home with technology that they can rely on," she states.

As a result of revenue losses during the pandemic, Ohio cut roughly $300 million from K-12 and higher education.

While it was offset by $384 million in CARES Act funding, additional education cuts are expected in the 2020-2021 state budget.

Kimpon also is worried about the impact of the pandemic on children who are already struggling with behavioral health issues. She notes her district hasn't had the money for an elementary school guidance counselor for more than a decade.

"We have a lot of kids with a lot of mental health problems in those early, early ages," she points out. "And getting to them quickly and early on is going to help them grow into a functioning adult."

Stambaugh adds that the country needs to place a higher value on the education of its youth.

"Children are our future," she stresses. "They're going to be running this country in a very few short years, especially our older high school students.

"They're seeing these decisions and how they're impacting them. We want them to be participants in democracy. "

Roughly 1% of the $2 trillion CARES Act was allocated for public schools.