The Duluth School Board voted Tuesday unanimously in favor of a resolution that would allow individual schools in the district to keep 80 percent of the compensatory education funds they generate.
The resolution states in the 2018-2019 school year schools would keep a minimum of 80 percent of the compensatory education funds they generate and that the minimum percentage allocated will increase by 5 percent in each of the subsequent two years.
"The status quo is not equitable for those who are falling behind," board member Alanna Oswald said. "It's time to stop talking about it and fund it."
Each school generates a certain amount of compensatory education funds based on its population of students taking part in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. State statute requires the district to keep half of the money allocated to each level - elementary, middle and high school - but it can shift the rest around. It has done that to lower class sizes throughout the district.
Community members filled the School Board chamber holding signs saying "Equity Now," and encouraged the board to vote for the resolution. Twenty community members spoke up during public comment, including John Krumm.
"This is an historic opportunity for you. It is a real chance for the Duluth School Board to finally make a change," he said. "And it's change that has been needed for many, many years."
Krumm said he supported the resolution and asked that it not be looked at compensatory education funds versus class size, which is what those funds have been used for in the past.
"Class-size issue is separate and is something that you can handle in your budget. You can juggle things around as need and set priorities," he said. "There are consequences that are real. The consequences are graduation rate, personal and academic achievement and school attendance. Those are real consequences that we need to address to with this money."
The discussion about how compensatory education funds were being used was started by community groups concerned about equity issues. Andromeda Lee brought those issues up during public comment.
"Equity is defined as a quality of being fair, impartial and balanced and our schools are not equitable or equal," she said. "Truthfully by not supporting this resolution you are sending the message that some students are literally worth more than others. You are contributing to a structured failure by taking away resources from a school that needs them. By allowing this continue you will exacerbate the problem by allowing cuts to schools that need the most help."
Board chair David Kirby asked that the vote be postponed until March to gather more information on what effect the changes would have on schools.
"I feel that I need, and that our community would benefit from, more information and data. From discussion of all of the people who could be affected," he said. "I don't think that we've heard everything. I think that further discussions would help people learn."
Though Kirby agrees that the change in compensatory education does not contribute to the deficit, he said any kind of realignment given the current deficit the school district is facing does have consequences.
"We have time to look at the ramification of this," Kirby said. "Passing this resolution tonight is not going to make any difference tomorrow."
Kirby's motion to postpone the vote until March was defeated 1-6.
With the realignment of compensatory education fund allocation, some schools will receive less than they are currently getting.
Oswald said she is committed to making sure this change won't harm those schools potentially receiving less.
"I just want to say to the school that potentially could lose some money, know that I am personally committed to making sure they get the money they need to help maintain their students being successful some way somehow," she said.