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Dysart School District Seeks Funding Override

(Photo courtesy of Dysart Unified School District)
Dysart Superintendent Dr. Gail Pletnick said a voter-approved funding override would allow the district to return to full day kindergarten as well as recruit and retain teachers. Voters will head to the polls November 3.

The Dysart Unified School District is asking voters to approve a funding override on Nov. 3.

The request comes after voters rejected an override in 2014. That forced Dysart to phase out $6 million in spending this year. If this year's override fails, the largest West Valley school district faces another $12 million in cuts over the next two years. 

The financial woes forced Dysart to switch to half-day kindergarten this year. The change meant months of rewriting curriculum, coordinating an extra round of transportation and developing a program for kids who can’t go home because their parents work all day, said Superintendent Dr. Gail Pletnick

But it’s been kindergartners themselves, including special needs and English and a second language students, who have been most impacted, Pletnick said. Half-days have slashed into the time children would spend developing motor skills, expanding their vocabularies and learning how to think creatively.

RELATED: Teachers Shuttle Between Schools As Dysart School District Deals With Budget Cuts

“Through those activities, students are able to gain the skills — the foundation — that then are utilized right through into adulthood,” Pletnick said.  

The failed override and state budget cuts led to Dysart losing more than 200 employees from last year, Pletnick said. If the override passes, part of it will go toward recruiting and retaining quality teachers.

The best way to do that is to offer resources and an environment that fosters academic success, Pletnick said. Dysart invests in teachers’ professional development and ongoing education. So when a teacher leaves, the ripple effect is significant.

“Then it’s a double hit to us,” Pletnick said. “We’re losing the person, but we’re also losing our investment in that person.” 

Oct. 5 is the deadline for registering to vote. Early ballots will be mailed on October 8.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.