CMSD and Say yes met with state legislators last week to discuss Statehouse priorities.
CMSD and Say Yes officials met with state legislators last week to discuss Statehouse priorities. Credit: Ohio State Rep. Juanita Brent via Twitter

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District and local officials made moves this week to secure funding for Say Yes Cleveland’s family support services program for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year. 

In its fourth year, the program costs a total of $9.4 million, which covers the salaries of 104 family support specialists who provide wraparound services in CMSD and partnering charter schools. In October 2022, Cuyahoga County Council learned about a funding issue. The county would not be reimbursed for as many as many federal Title IV-E dollars as expected.

To help close the gap, County Council designated more than $2.6 million in 2022–$1.6 million from its Health and Human Services levy and $1 million from its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. In January, Cleveland City Council directed $600,000 of its ARPA funding to the program. Those moves brought the gap down to about $2.9 million.

Help on the horizon

Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon announced this Monday in his livestreamed “Talk with the CEO” segment that the district has allocated more funding to help close the remaining gap and that additional money may be coming from the county and the state.

CMSD spokesperson Roseann Canfora confirmed to Signal Cleveland that the district recently contributed $600,000. This is on top of CMSD’s budgeted contribution, which is one-third of the total program cost each year.

County Executive Chris Ronayne is planning to introduce legislation to provide an additional $600,000 to close the Say Yes funding gap, according to a county spokesperson. In order for Say Yes to receive this money, his legislation would need to pass through the county’s legislative process.

Jon Benedict, spokesperson for Say Yes, told Signal Cleveland in an interview that Say Yes Cleveland is working with the county to access federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds that are distributed by the county through the State of Ohio. Benedict said that if these funds come through, Say Yes would be able to cover its costs through the end of the fiscal year. 

What are TANF Funds?

TANF money can go directly to families who qualify for public assistance. It can also go to organizations that provide TANF-related services such as parenting classes, workforce training and after-school programs.

County Council Member Sunny Simon told Signal Cleveland that County Council will have to approve sending the approximately $1.5 million in TANF funds from the state to Say Yes.

A spokesperson from Mayor Justin Bibb’s office told Signal Cleveland that Bibb also asked the governor to help secure these TANF funds for the program. 

What about the long term?

In his livestreamed talk, Gordon said he has been confident that the funding issue would be solved. 

“Now I am even more confident that we have solved it for the short term,” he said.

As for the long term, Gordon said he and other local leaders are pushing the state to make policy changes that will free up federal dollars for Say Yes. These are funds the state already receives.

Their hope is that this money will permanently solve the Say Yes funding gap for years to come.

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covered K-12 education for Signal Cleveland until August, 2023. Paul joined us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.