The state of Ohio still has approximately $2.13 billion in federal funding available to distribute to agencies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks told Hannah News in an interview. Ohio received a total of $4.5 billion from the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but about $775 million of that went directly to Ohio's most populous local governments -- Franklin, Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Montgomery and Summit counties, as well as the city of Columbus. The other $3.7 billion went to the state government, and about $1.2 billion of that is the local portion. The state recently disbursed $350 million of that through HB481 (Fraizer), an emergency measure signed by Gov. Mike DeWine on June 19. The remaining $2.49 billion is for the state to distribute as it sees fit to respond to the pandemic, Murnieks said.
Ohio Department of Health (ODH) statistics showed an upward trend in new COVID-19 cases over the week. On Friday, June 26, ODH reported 897 cases, substantially up from the 21-day average of 518 cases. On Wednesday, July 1, ODH reported an increase of 1,076 cases over Tuesday, for a total of 52,865 COVID-19 cases in the state. The number of hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions increased over that period from from 7,570 and 1,904, respectively, to 7,911 and 2,008.
At a Monday COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine urged Ohioans to take precautions against spread of the virus in light of the recent case trends, including a doubling of hospitalizations in Hamilton and Montgomery counties. DeWine said that the increases aren't solely because Ohio is testing more, pointing to the percentage of tests that come back positive as a factor. He said as the state has opened up testing to whomever wants one, there is an expectation that the number would drop, but it has stayed around the 4 to 6 percent average that Ohio has seen over the course of the pandemic. While he said the number has not gone up dramatically, it has not dropped, indicating an increase in cases. Meanwhile, DeWine announced that beginning Monday, July 20, nursing homes will be permitted to allow outdoor visitation as long as all safety measures are taken.
An Ohio Department of Education (ODE) working group on 12th graders without diplomas met recently to finalize the recommendations it will be making in a report to the Legislature and education leaders on how to best serve students who do not receive a diploma following their senior year of high school. The group was created as a result of budget bill HB166 (Oelsager), and seeks to tie its recommendations to ODE's strategic plan for education, "Each Child, Our Future."
A new policy brief from the Fordham Institute titled "Resetting School Accountability, from the Bottom Up" recommends flexibility for the upcoming 2020-21 school year before implementing a revised school accountability framework as well as open enrollment for districts and increased public funding for charter and private schools for the 2021-22 school year. Fordham also reversed course on its support for academic distress commissions, writing, "We doubt that lasting change can be accomplished through this intervention framework." In its recommendations for the 2020-21 school year, the group recommends repealing the current academic distress commission law.
Ohio Department of Education (ODE) staff Monday discussed plans for a grant-funded project to improve data systems to help detect students who are at risk of not graduating on time. The Education Management Information System (EMIS) Advisory Council heard from EMIS Director David Ehle on the plans for four projects to be funded by a federal grant for the statewide longitudinal data system. Previously rounds of grant funding have also been used to build out and improve EMIS.
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced that the Expanding Opportunities for Each Child grant program will soon begin accepting applications for schools seeking to expand activities for low-achieving and low-income students. As a noncompetitive grant program, all traditional school districts and community schools receiving Title I, Part A funds as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will receive up to 3 percent of their Title I, Part A funds to execute this grant program, according to ODE. Funds will be awarded through districts' Comprehensive Continuous Improvement Plans (CCIP) in July 2020.
In a 5-4 decision issued Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a Montana tax credit program could be used in conjunction with religious schools, striking down a ruling from the Montana Supreme Court that found the program violated a provision in the state's constitution prohibiting government aid to any school "controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect or denomination."