CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Ohio Education Association, which represents 122,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals, wants Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to issue money from the state’s rainy day fund to schools to protect children in the face of rising coronavirus cases.
Ohio broke another daily increase record on Wednesday, with 2,366 newly reported cases. Ohio has set the third record in a week for daily increases.
The group argues that schools need money to appropriately set up social distancing measures. President Scott DiMauro criticized the state’s school funding system for inequities in ensuring districts have the funds to respond to disasters like the pandemic.
“Because of Ohio’s unconstitutional, inequitable school funding system that has created huge state and local funding disparities, some districts are able to keep their communities safer than others,” DiMauro said in a press release. “Where Ohio’s students and educators live and work should not determine their relative health and safety.”
In July, DeWine said he expects to eventually spend the state’s entire $2.7 billion rainy-day fund to balance revenue losses, and previously cut the education budget to help cover the gap.
Twenty-nine of Ohio’s 88 counties were designated in “red” status on Oct. 15, which forced many districts to reconsider plans to expand or return to in-person classes. The costs associated with the pandemic are steep, including increased technology needs, masks and hand sanitizer, as well as other barriers for classroom instruction.
The group also advises more state guidance on school safety measures. Though the state issued best practices and recommendations for the return to schools, there are few mandates, and schools retain the power to make the choice about how to return kids to classrooms. DeWine previously said the state may step in if there is a threat to student safety, but has not defined what that would look like.
Coronavirus numbers for K-12 schools published by the state on Thursday included an increase of 589 new student cases in K-12 schools, 292 for staff. Those are only confirmed case numbers, and the state does not record the number of students who need to quarantine after a potential case.
“Statewide guidance is critical to ensuring the safety of all of Ohio’s students,” DiMauro said in the release. “While OEA appreciates the importance of local control in many educational decisions, the current piecemeal district-by-district approach fails to protect some students and educators from unacceptably dangerous conditions in their classrooms, truly putting lives at risk. Ohio must do better.”