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Cleveland Schools CEO "Grateful" For COVID Relief Funding For K-12 Schools

The $26 million that the Cleveland Metropolitan School District received in CARES Act funding is "long gone," according to CEO Eric Gordon.

The new federal coronavirus relief bill awaiting President Trump’s signature includes $54 billion for K-12 schools nationwide. The amount is four times more than schools received through the CARES Act, passed in March, but far less than what Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon asked Congress for this summer.

In June, Gordon told the U.S House Education and Labor Committee that $200 billion was needed to help K-12 schools deal with the crushing economic impact of the pandemic.  Gordon testified as part of the national Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of 61 superintendents from large urban districts around the country.

Though it's not close to what he said was needed, Gordon said he was "grateful" that Congress had passed the nearly 6000-page pandemic relief package overnight Monday, which he expects will be allocated over time.

“This recovery is not going to be immediate. And so it shouldn't also be a whole bunch of money doled out all at once, it should be patterned over time to make sure that school districts move through this pandemic and into the recovery,” Gordon said. 

Gordon said the $26 million in CARES Act funding CMSD received is “long gone” after paying for expenses including personal protective equipment and thousands of digital devices and internet hotspots to support remote learning.

“I understand there's some dollars for infrastructure and we still have this digital divide that has not been solved,” said Gordon. “So looking forward to seeing those dollars and dollars to continue the meal plans that we've been providing kids.  We’re providing far fewer meals, but we're still staffing all of our kitchens.”

Shifting to hybrid learning and getting students back into the classroom will require additional funding, Gordon said, because the district will need additional staff.

“We know some kids aren't coming back to school even when we open the doors, so we’ll need teachers teaching those remote students,” said Gordon, “while there are going to be other kids where we're going to have to have teacher teams, for example, and we may need some substitutes to support that.”

Beyond a return to the physical classroom, the big concern for Gordon is helping CMSD students recover from educational loss during the pandemic.

“We lost time for learning. And so the way you recover that is you add time to thinking about weekend opportunities, summer opportunities, evening opportunities, and all of the same people have to do that work,” said Gordon. “So that means overtime for all of our educators, including the people that keep buildings open, cook food, clean, all of those things. So there's a lot to invest in and it's coming fast.”


Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”