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Facing lower enrollment after tornadoes, western Ky. school leaders ask state lawmakers not to ding funding

A building in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky that was damaged by a tornado.
A building in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky that was damaged by a tornado.

School districts impacted by this month's deadly tornadoes are asking state lawmakers not to penalize them for the enrollment drops they could see if families displaced by the storms don’t return.

State funding for schools is tied to enrollment, and fewer students generally means districts get less funding.

Mayfield Independent Schools superintendent Joe Henderson is among the leaders asking lawmakers to freeze state funding at its current level for the next five years, even if enrollment drops.

“In our community it will take at least that amount of time in order to rebuild and have the opportunity to return to this community if they choose to do so,” Henderson told WFPL News. “That would somewhat offer a level of protection financially for the school district moving forward.”

The storms killed 77 people in western Kentucky and destroyed much of the city of Mayfield. Henderson said many students were relocated outside of the district’s boundaries for shelter.

Henderson said superintendents from Christian County Schools and Dawson Springs Independent School district are also asking for relief. They brought their concerns to Kentucky’s Education Commissioner Jason Glass on a call Tuesday.

According to a blog post from the Kentucky Department of Education, school leaders also asked the state to consider counting the days staff spent doing emergency work toward their contractually-required work days.

Some districts canceled school after the storms struck, and in many cases teachers and staff have been working on cleanup and other relief efforts.

Lawmakers return to Frankfort on Tuesday for the 2022 legislative session.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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