Parents give Dubuque School District an 'F' for equity after newly released reports

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- The sun wasn't even up before a group of people were outside the Dubuque Community School District offices Wednesday morning to give out a report card.

Parents and others gather outside of the Dubuque Community School District offices on Wednesday, Dec. 19 to give the District an "F" for addressing equity in the schools. (Allison Wong, KCRG-TV9)

People in the group held signs that read, "Teachers: A, Students: A, Equity: F."

Parents in the group believe the district isn't doing enough to address equity within schools in the district.

"The school board and the district has been inefficient addressing the needs of our downtown schools," Derrick Clark, father to two kids at Prescott Elementary School, said.

The gathering comes one day after the state released its performance profiles for public schools, a requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind.

The assessments identified 10 Dubuque schools that need more support due to low student performance.

Clark believes the district needs to take action.

"They either need to find some way of getting those schools the resources they need to help with those children, or they need to redistrict," he said.

Superintendent Stan Rheingans said he recognizes there is a problem.

"Certainly we have a long way to go with making sure all of our students receive a great education," he said.

In regards to resources, Rheingans said the district already spends more money at its Title 1 schools.

For example, the district spends $12,139 per student at Prescott, a Title 1 school, and $8,694 per student at Bryant, not a Title 1 school.

Rheingans said the district uses the money to support co-teaching, smaller class sizes and community outreach. He said those efforts have worked for two schools in the district, Audubon and Marshal.

"Audubon was the lowest performing school three or four years ago in the district. Today it’s not cited in any way," he said.

If not more resources and funds, Clark believes the district should look at redrawing attendance boundaries. He said that would distribute the need throughout the district.

Clark explained, "I think the load is unequal. There are kids that have high need, and it’s hard for those teachers and that administration to meet everybody’s needs equitably."

Rheingans said that is a possible solution, but one he cautions against.

He said, "we can look at redistricting, or the boundaries. My concern there is the way the funding is done. You can actually pull kids away from resources.”

One of the district's state legislative priorities is for a new way of distributing funds, Rheingans said.

He said, "focus funding on students in poverty like we do special education or ELL students, so that students, no matter what school they’re in, receive additional funding."

Still, parents are waiting for the district to act quickly and effectively, because, according to Clark, the response so far is, "insufficient. It's a little tone deaf."