Cleveland allocates $4.4 million in ARPA funds to early childhood education


CLEVELAND — As Northeast Ohio continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, Cleveland is investing millions of dollars in children, working parents and education. Tuesday, city leaders, educators and organizations discussed how $4.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will benefit early childhood education in the city.

Briana Cannada recalls the stress of looking for daycare for her daughter when she was a single mother.

“I made 10 dollars and 50 cents an hour and I was denied a childcare voucher,” she said. “To be told I didn’t meet the qualifications to have my child in a quality child care center, that was hard.”

Even the most affordable child care center Cannada could find cost $125 weekly, which amounted to more than a third of her income. Others charged nearly double that.

“Realistically speaking, I don’t know how I would do it,” she recalled.

Her daughter eventually landed in a Head Start collaboration program. Cannada also began teaching at another Head Start program. She sees how the early educational opportunities benefited her now second-grade student.

“She just had access and exposure to things that she wouldn’t have had just being at home with me, even with my background as an educator,” Cannada explained. “She’s so well-spoken and has, even at 7, a vast knowledge of things that I know her time spent in an early childhood setting is what shaped.”

According to Starting Point, more than 4,000 fewer Cleveland children are enrolled in early education than pre-pandemic. The early childhood resource agency attributes the lower enrollment to barriers exacerbated by the pandemic.

“As inflation is taking hold, as prices are going up, families are really struggling to be able to pay for good quality childcare,” said Starting Point Executive Director and President Nancy Mendez.

She also explained many childcare centers are experiencing staffing shortages. At Louis Stokes Head Start Center in Cleveland, several classrooms are sitting empty because there aren’t enough educators to staff them, which some attribute to low wages.

“Recently a lot of teachers have come to a crossroads, where they have to make a hard choice between staying in a field that they love or choosing a path that ensures they have more financial stability,” said Louis Stokes Early Head Start teacher Taja Salett.

Starting Point said the average pay for an early childhood educator is $12-$13 per hour, which many say is less than competitive.

“School districts need teachers. We’re competing against them. We’re also losing teachers to Target and Amazon because they’ve increased wages in ways we cannot,” said Dr. Jacklyn Chisholm, the President and CEO of Step Forward.

The women were all part of a panel discussion with city leaders Tuesday. The group talked about a $4.4 million investment in Cleveland’s early childhood education.

“This won’t completely solve the problem, but it’s an early step in the right direction,” said Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb.

His administration and Cleveland City Council have approved the allocation. Over 2 years, Cleveland received $512 million in ARPA funds. Bibb said it was the eighth-largest allocation of ARPA money in the country.

Mendez explained the funding for early childhood education will go into 2 buckets; $2.5 million for bonuses and retention efforts and $1.9 million for family scholarships.

The city is currently developing a scholarship application process and says the dollars will be available for Head Start and other childcare centers, including qualifying family home daycare centers.

Though advocates acknowledge the ARPA funding is not necessarily a long-term solution for many early childhood education challenges, some hope it allows parents to get back to work and gives children a solid foundation for the future.

“Not having access can be detrimental for some. So a program like this where the masses can access it – it’s important. It’s a game-changer. It literally gives our kids a head start,” Cannada said.

Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.

You can also catch News 5 Cleveland on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live and more. We’re also on Amazon Alexa devices. Learn more about our streaming options here.

window.fbAsyncInit = function() {

appId : ‘117981068372285’,

xfbml : true,
version : ‘v2.9’
(function(d, s, id){
var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;}
js = d.createElement(s); = id;
js.src = “”;
js.async = true;
fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));

Like it? Share with your friends!


What's Your Reaction?

hate hate
confused confused
fail fail
fun fun
geeky geeky
love love
lol lol
omg omg
win win


Leave a Reply