Davenport school superintendent explains intention to break state law

Davenport Superintendent

DAVENPORT, Iowa. (KWQC) — The Davenport School District is less than a month away from a critical state meeting. The School Budget Review Committee will take a closer look at Superintendent Art Tate’s decision to spend $175 more per student using reserve funds. Tate’s decision also means the District is violating state law.

This moment has been building for a couple of years now. The school board supported Tate’s decision to use reserves to back fill the difference in state aid for three school years. The District was able to do so without penalty because it had leftover spending authority. But that spending authority has now been used up, and the current spending will violate state law. School districts cannot spend more than what they’re authorized. Tate said without spending from the District’s reserves, future cuts would be too deep.

“We think this is important for our students and for every student in the state in districts that are not getting the full amount to spend on their student,” said Tate.

He plans to keep using the District’s reserves to soften the impact of budget cuts. State law says that’s illegal.

“In this state they give you a ceiling, you can only spend so much, its authorized, and if you go above that amount than you are violating state law,” said Tate.

Tate will have to explain to a group of officials what he’s doing and why. He did so last year too. But this year is different because now the District is breaking state law.

Tate said, “The Department of Education might go after my license, they might go after the board saying you need to fire the superintendent because he is exceeding his authority.”

The District believes its cause is just. The state aid formula was created 40 years ago. TV-6 interviewed the author. He said lawmakers did the best they could back then, trying to balance property tax relief with getting equal funding per student, but some districts came out ahead of others.

Tate said, “That immediately divided the state, and that’s where we are today, that has not changed.”

Tate doesn’t expect the School Budget Review Committee to say yes to his plan. The problem goes deeper. It likely needs a legislative fix.

Tate said, “If they would admit, like the Governor has, this is wrong, let’s change it, here’s a ten-year plan, every year we’re going to add this much to each district till it comes up so we have the same cost per student.”

Davenport schools has drawn its line in the sand. Tate said without equal funding, students in half the districts across the state will continue to suffer.

“We need it now, I need programs, we need to keep programs going,” said Tate.

The school board unanimously approved to send this plan to the state two weeks ago. This is new territory for an Iowa school district. Even though the board has been talking with its lawyers, figuring out what could happen, no one really knows what will happen.

Tate will meet with the School Budget Review Committee on December 13th. TV-6 will be there as well.

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