In the wake of the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the year 2020 has been a year of obstacles. For public schools, there have been no exceptions particularly in the area of school funding.
Last spring, Governor Mike DeWine announced a $300 million reduction in state funding to K-12 schools for the 2020 fiscal year. The resulting loss of $552,000 in state funding to our district was not anticipated, but in our budget we were able to manage it by reducing expenses while our buildings were shut down.
For the 2021 fiscal year, we will be funded the same as we were at the end of FY20, which is $552,000 less than FY19. Added to that downturn in funding, there is still a possibility of additional cuts depending on the state’s financial situation.
That said, there were some positives in the fiscal landscape for Marion City Schools in the year 2020. We were provided funds from the state for Student Wellness and Success. These funds are earmarked by the state to provide emotional and social support for our students. We were also able to ensure that every Marion City School District school has an Educational Service Professional (ESP), and we now have School Resource Officers throughout the district and a Diversity Coordinator.
Because we did have to move to a remote learning model for the last quarter of school last school year, we did see a decrease in spending at that time as well. We had less expenditures in the areas of substitute teachers, services, overtime and utilities. We also saw a reduction at the end of year in community school payments. Furthermore, the governor directed the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation to send rebates to employers in the spring that totaled almost $400,000.
Still, the savings we realized do not outweigh the costs we have incurred - and continue to incur - as a school district as a result of COVID-19.
Congress dedicated approximately $13.2 billion for K-12 funds - known as the CARES Act - to support education. We were very fortunate to receive approximately $1.7 million for this and we are certainly grateful for this additional funding. These funds had to be used to purchase technology for every student, provide online learning platforms, technology coaching, and other needs that arose from online and hybrid learning. Without these funds, we would have had a severe deficit in our budget. Additionally, the district received CARES funding to help provide for additional personal protective equipment for our students and employees, along with minimal support to provide wi-fi access to students who were previously going without.
While we do not know what the future has in store for us in regards to this pandemic, one thing I can say for certain is that we appreciate the community’s support of our schools. It is because of your support that we will be able to weather the fiscal challenges facing our schools as best as possible.