Members of 40 religious congregations packed Olivet Baptist Church in Cleveland Thursday night to celebrate the restoration of programs vital for students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

The programs, which include pre-school, high school transportation, and spring sports, were going to be eliminated in January in order to help erase a $13 million budget deficit. But a tentative contract agreement reached last week between the school district and its teachers union will free up about $7 million to restore those programs for this school year.

“When I heard the news that the cuts were reversed, I was excited,” Martin Luther King High School student Jeremey Dawson told the audience. “Sports are more than just games to me,” he said. “It’s a part of me. It’s part of my life.”

Teachers lose three and a half days of pay and see an increase in their health care costs under the agreement, which still must be approved by the union’s membership and the school board.

Next year, Cleveland schools face another $66 million budget deficit.

Members of the Greater Cleveland Congregations pledged to be part of the long term solution.

“We’re willing to work with whoever wants us to work with them to address the issues at the state level or wherever we have to go to make sure that we find a solution to this,” Rev. W. H. Mebane Jr. of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral said. “Our children are constantly being put at risk and we simply will not tolerate that.”

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