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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

CMSD CEO Tells Congress K-12 Schools Need $200 Billion To Tackle COVID-19

Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, as part of a coalition of 61 superintendents from large urban school districts around the country, asked Congress for $200 billion in federal funding Monday, testifying at a virtual hearing of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee.

The House recently passed the HEROES Act, a coronavirus relief package that includes approximately $58 billion dollars to help K-12 schools offset coronavirus related impacts. Gordon called it “a good start,” but said more is needed.

“That was based on the $110 billion that was allocated in the 2008 through 2010 recession,” said Gordon, who testified as part of the national Council of the Great City Schools. “Knowing that this recession is predicted to be about twice that size a magnitude."

Gordon told committee members school districts across the country and locally are facing budget cuts while also tackling added expenses, all due to the coronavirus. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently slashed $300 million from K-12 schools in Ohio, as part of broader pandemic-related state budget cuts, and districts expect more cuts down the line.

“I used my district here in Cleveland in my written testimony to show Congress that in a district that serves communities –  it’s 86 percent children of color and the poorest city for children in America – that we're facing up to a $127 million dollar deficit, if all of the potential revenue sources collapse at the same time,” Gordon said. “That's a quarter of our budget.”

When DeWine first issued the stay-at-home order in Ohio, CMSD scrambled to procure thousands of Chromebooks and buy hotspots for students without internet access at home. Gordon described the end of the school year as “nine weeks of lost learning, which exposed the disparities between districts with ample resources and “fragile districts like ours.” 

Among CMSD’s other expenses, Gordon said the district will have to pay for personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies, internet and technology for remote learning, as well as staff training, as well.

“There's going to be a need to retrain our professionals. This is not the way we were trained to deliver education,” Gordon said. “So it's going to be more than a day or two of professional development, but through retraining efforts to make sure that our staff are ready to go. And I think a lot of those things are going to contribute to added costs for our district and districts across the country.”

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