Dodge City schools please with court ruling

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DODGE CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — The Dodge City school district has some unique issues with the block grants.

“We anticipated this outcome and are glad to see that the court agreed with our position,” said Superintendent Alan Cunningham.

It’s a big win for the district that was hit hard by the funding plan the Kansas Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional.

“Before all this happened,” said Cunningham, “we were receiving about 4400 dollars per student in funding. Now we’re receiving 3800 and something dollars.”

The block grant meant the district received the same amount of funding year after year.

In districts like Dodge City that’s growing,” said Cunningham, “we have a couple hundred more kids now than what we had back then, but we have no additional funding to help meet the needs of those kids.”

Dodge City’s demographics are different than the other three districts involved in the lawsuit. 70 percent of students receive free meals and a large portion are second language learners.

“It doesn’t mean these kids can’t learn,” said Cunningham. “They’re very smart little guys and gals, but they need the extra time, the extra resources, and the extra attention from a teacher to help them learn successfully.”

The block grant affected all students. About two years after the 2005 Montoy case that changed the funding formula, Dodge schools saw test scores rise.

“Now two or three years after we’ve been cut,” said Cunningham, “or three or four or five years after we’ve started being cut, I think the residual effect of that growth has worn off, and now scores are going back down again.”

Cunningham says that considering the state’s budget shortfall, he knows it will take years to get schools back on track. He’s optimistic that today’s ruling is setting them off in the right direction.

Cunningham is retiring this year, but he says he’s looking forward to see the legislature implement a new plan to help his community.

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