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Struggling Dickinson students could face another trial: School funding

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Struggling Dickinson students could face another trial: School funding
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

The number of students from low-income families in Dickinson Public Schools has decreased, which could mean less funding for students who need extra help, officials said.

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"Certain elements of our federal funding, specifically Title I funding, which is for remedial math and reading education, are directly related to the number of low-income students that we have in the schools," DPS Superintendent Doug Sullivan said.

The number of students considered low-income are identified by those who qualify for free and reduced lunch, he added.

"If the community experiences an influx of high-paying jobs, that could potentially affect the number of low-income students in the school, which would decrease our Title I allocation from the federal government, which would in turn impact remedial math and reading classes," Sullivan said.

DPS received $718,467 in Title I funding this school year and about $742,000 last year.

Laurie Matzke, Title I director for the North Dakota Department Public Instruction in Bismarck, said the decrease in those enrolling in lunch programs is surprising.

"Usually on the western side there with Dickinson, Minot and Williston, we're hearing the opposite, that they're having an influx in people and an influx in low-income students," Matzke said.

Title I is a federal program which gives money to states to allocate to school districts, she said.

"It's making a broad assumption that kids in poverty are going to struggle, which we know is true much of the time," Matzke said. "It's kind of unique because the state and districts get their funds based on low-income kids, but as soon as the money hits the district and the building, then it switches."

Any child struggling with math and reading, regardless of their families' income, can receive help from Title I funds, she said.

Sullivan said school district money could be used to help cover costs if funding is lost.

"The only other alternative we have is to take a look at decreasing services," he said. "We never want to do it, but sometimes money drives the decision."

Kris Fehr, Dickinson Public School Board president, and school board member Jason Hanson say they hope that doesn't happen.

"In the past, we have always tried to provide the services and the funding for the students in the district, and I'm confident that the school board and the administration would be looking at every possible avenue so that students aren't affected," Fehr said.

Matzke said more people could be eligible for lunch programs than are applying, which can throw off funding.

"We're very proud people here in North Dakota and we don't always like to admit when we need help," she said. "Even if they don't accept the help ... if you can show eligibility on a form, then that might get the school extra money."

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