Education

Davenport schools superintendent calls it quits

Art Tate known for spending more on education than allowed

Davenport schools Superintendent Art Tate announces his plan Friday to resign effective Wednesday. (Quad City Times)
Davenport schools Superintendent Art Tate announces his plan Friday to resign effective Wednesday. (Quad City Times)

DAVENPORT — Davenport schools Superintendent Art Tate, who became known throughout Iowa for his insistence on violating the state funding formula so he could increase per-pupil spending in his district, said Friday he had become a liability and announced he’d quit next week.

In a brief news conference, Tate said he had an obligation to understand and react to unequal treatment of students, especially over discipline. Under his watch, the district remains under state supervision because a disproportionate number of minority students are identified for special education and subject to disciplinary actions.

“Although this district has realized some noteworthy accomplishments,” Tate said, “I did not prioritize the need to address differences in the way students are excluded from classrooms in school.”

Sandy Schmitz, the implementation adviser assigned to Davenport schools by the Iowa Department of Education, has said there is “data to suggest they’re just treated differently in several areas.”

Tate said he has become a liability to the district because of his stand for funding equity, the “Worth Less” campaign. He said the fight for spending equity coupled with a less-than-hoped-for outcome “has sapped my professional strength.”

For the last three years, he has persuaded the school board to approve overspending its budget because the district receives less state money per pupil than other Iowa districts, and has since the state funding formula was implemented in the 1970s.

If the funding were equitable, Tate has said, he would not have to break the law to financially support the district.

But that decision came at a cost.

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In August, the Iowa Board of Education Examiners reprimanded him for intentionally overspending, saying it was a violation of the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics governing the teaching profession. He had faced sanctions that included being stripped of his administrator’s license.

And since the budget has not yet been brought into balance, the district could face further state fiscal review, and district officials and the school board could face further penalties, including fines, removal from office by district court, or charges of a serious misdemeanor, according to the Iowa Department of Education.

But Tate also led the “District of Distinction” initiative, which brought together district administrators, teachers, parents, members of the business community and school board members for almost a year to identify programs that would best serve students.

Tate previously announced he planned to retire in June. Friday, he said his resignation is effective Wednesday.

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