Cleveland Schools Face Impact of COVID Cuts on Laptops, Summer School, and After-School Programs

The Cleveland school district, one of the largest recipients of federal COVID relief funds, faces potential cuts to summer school, after-school programs, and a laptop program for students as the aid flow diminishes this summer.

CEO Warren Morgan has proposed cutting $91 million, with prominent reductions in initiatives designed to support students during the pandemic-related school closures in the high-poverty district.

The cuts also target ending year-round classes in some schools to compensate for the loss of an additional $12,000 per student in COVID aid.

“We received nearly $500 million in federal COVID relief which enabled us to do remarkable things during an unprecedented time,” noted Morgan. “As these funds dwindle, we face a financial cliff.”

A ranking by Burbio placed Cleveland third among big cities in per-student aid after Detroit and Philadelphia.

While detailed cut plans are pending, further reductions are anticipated for the 2025-26 school year.

The current proposals by CEO Morgan represent Cleveland’s initial step towards prioritizing pandemic programs and considering necessary trade-offs.

The district, among many others, grapples with financial strains as federal pandemic aid winds down, particularly impacting high-poverty districts like Cleveland.

High-poverty districts received substantially more COVID aid than affluent ones, facilitating investments in critical areas for addressing educational gaps caused by the pandemic.

Qubila Huddleston of the Education Trust emphasized the challenge posed by funding dynamics, including unexpected enrollment declines and inflation coinciding with the loss of federal relief.

The community-specific issues in Cleveland, from a new district CEO to ongoing contract negotiations with the Teachers Union, further complicate the financial landscape and decision-making processes.

Cleveland Teachers Union President Shari Obrenski downplayed the crisis of expected cuts, touting the strategic use of federal funds to prolong the district’s financial stability.

Proposed cuts in Cleveland target programs that were either initiated with federal aid or were part of previous efforts overseen by the former CEO.

CEO Morgan’s suggestions include reducing the budget for providing students with laptops and portable hotspots, altering the one-to-one computer program to address connectivity disparities highlighted during the pandemic.

The planned reductions extend to afterschool programs and summer learning initiatives, aiming to streamline resources and drive efficiencies in district spending.

Morgan’s proposals aim to bring equity and consistency to the allocation of resources across schools, particularly concerning additional school days and specialized high school programs.

The district is grappling with tough choices as it navigates the shifting financial landscape post-pandemic aid, highlighting the complexities of balancing educational priorities amidst budget constraints.

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