Dysart schools facing cuts after override fails

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Dysart Unified School District is facing an $18 million loss after voters failed to approve the continuation of a budget override which has been in place since 2010.

"I think it's really sad. It's really disappointing," said Cimarron Springs Elementary parent Deidre.

"We're going to be without. Teachers are going to lose jobs. The kids aren't going to have chorus," Cimarron Springs Elementary parent Kathleen Bagley said.

Parents with children in the Dysart School District are coming to terms with what could be the new norm: deep cuts across all schools.

So, what's at stake?

"All-day kindergarten, maintaining class sizes, our intervention programs, our fine arts programs and that includes band, art, music, but also our athletic programs and our P.E. program," said Superintendent Gail Pletnick.

All of those programs are currently funded by the $18 million a year override.

Districts are allowed to go to local voters to ask for up to 15 percent over their established budget, which is determined by the state. In Dysart's case, they can ask for $18 million in additional monies.

This year, though, voters failed to approve the continuation of the override.

Pletnick says only about 27,000 people out of the more than 80,000 who live within the Dysart boundaries voted.

"I don't think they understand how that will affect the community. Good people will leave if we don't have music and the fine arts and things to keep our kids happy in our schools," said Cimarron Springs Elementary parent Tracy Smith.

When the superintendent talked about having to cut programs, she told 3TV what that really means is cutting people.

"In order to have an art class, I need to have an art teacher. In order to maintain class sizes, we have to have our certified staff in our buildings," she said.

The cuts will be phased in by phasing out programs and staff as early as next school year.

The plan is to cut $6 million from the 2015-16 budget and then $12 million from the 2016-17 budget.

"We're going to have to look at those programs and see what it is that we need to cut back or increase. For instance, class size. Those will be increasing, which will then reduce the number of teachers we need," Pletnick said.

Parents say it's a big blow and their kids will suffer because of it.

"It's proven that music helps kids perform better in school," Bagley said.

The superintendent says they are going to try and get the override on next year's ballot and, in fact, that very thing was brought up at the school board meeting Wednesday night. 

Taking the override to the voters again next year is something that has to be approved by the board.  

In the meantime, "We are going to go back out to our community, and we are going to try to educate them about how critical this is," Pletnick said.