Dysart Unified votes to cut all social worker positions next school year

District board says they did not have enough money for all social workers
Dysart Unified schools
Posted at 5:55 PM, Dec 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-20 08:14:05-05

SURPRISE, AZ — The Dysart Unified School District governing board voted to cut all social worker positions in the next school year, citing there isn’t a sustainable funding source to keep them going.

The 3-2 vote happened in November, and in December’s board meeting, community members continued to come out to express their gratitude and for others their disappointment in the district.

In a board presentation in November, the district said it should cut 24 social worker positions among a few other positions for the next school year. Only 15 of those 24 positions are currently filled. The district said those positions being eliminated were being funded by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, which was provided during the pandemic.

All school districts received COVID-19 funds throughout the years, but as ABC15 reported in August, those funds will be running out in the fall of 2024.

In the November board meeting, board members and district leaders went back and forth about the funding, with board member Jo Grant specifically asking questions about other ways to fund the positions. The cost for those 24 positions comes out to more than $1.9 million.

“I just don’t understand why we’re cutting all of them… Who is going to help these kids? That’s what I need to know,” Grant asked in November.

Ultimately, district leaders told her there was no sustainable funding source for those positions.

Superintendent John Croteau told board members they did try looking into possibly having even four positions, but the money is still not there.

“The decisions were made in the past to put people in there and in hindsight, I don’t know if that was a great idea to put employees in there,” Croteau said of using ESSER funds to pay for the positions.

In the December 14 board meeting, parents and community members continued to express their opinions on the cuts.

“If you guys focus on what you guys actually went to school for, what schools are made for is to educate our children, a lot of the behavioral things will go away,” one woman said, happy with the board’s decision.

“Dysart is leaving their students with no mental health support. How will Dysart address these mental health issues without the proper resources? Will you put the academic success of students at risk?” another community member questioned the board in public comment in December.

ABC15 reached out to Dysart Unified with several questions, including why the district chose to use one-time COVID funding for these positions and if the district applied to the Arizona Department of Education’s school safety grant for counselor or social worker positions.

A response to those specific questions could not be provided in time, however, the district offered the following statement:

In Dysart our top priority is education, and with the best interest of students at the heart of what we do, we continue to have many support positions in place. These include health and behavior teams on each campus, counselors at our high schools, and even psychologists, School Resource Officers and School Safety Officers. Additionally, we partner with many outside agencies so that we can share additional resource options with our families that need them.