COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Ohio schools will soon see pandemic relief with a price tag of nearly $4.5 billion.
But one local school district board president said her district is not eligible for any of those funds.
The way Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) is divided is tied to federal funding for disadvantaged students.
Olentangy School District School Board President Julie Wagner Feasel said the district doesn’t qualify for that and doesn’t expect to see any federal aid.
“I hear $4 billion that the state of Ohio is getting for education and we’re getting 0,” she said. “I’m furious.”
Feasel said since the beginning of the pandemic, her district has only received one round of pandemic relief.
“We’ve been the fastest-growing school district in the state for a year,” she said. “Our state funding has never caught up, so we’re always playing catch up and now when the pandemic hit, and we have expenses we did not even imagine.”
The Ohio Department of Education said federal pandemic relief through the Rescue America plan is tied to Title One grants aimed at helping disadvantaged students.
The state says it doesn’t have a firm list for allocation, but said schools can take their previous relief package and multiply that by 2.2 to get their total.
Districts similar to Olentangy – like Hilliard, Dublin, and Upper Arlington – are all expecting some funding:
- Hilliard — $14,073,614.60
- Dublin — $10,471,891.30
- Upper Arlington — $2,315,711.30
Feasel said pandemic relief could help solve major expenditures, like free food for the past year.
“Now we are looking at about a $3 million deficit in the food services budget that we are going to have to take money from our general fund, which should be going to education, and putting it into our food services budget to keep the solvent,” Feasel said.
Feasel is calling on state and federal legislators for help, saying even though the district doesn’t fall under Title One, her schools are hurting, too.
“We are constantly asking our voters for money, unfortunately, and this is something we can all get behind and all agree there needs to be some fairness in this,” she said.
The Ohio Department of Education is working to determine if there are ways to ensure schools that are in a situation similar to Olentangy are able to receive some federal funds.