Davenport School Superintendent Art Tate — already known in Iowa for risking his job to push for more equitable school funding — now is asking the state’s School Budget Review Committee to approve his district spending $1.13 million on a school security plan.
Tate recommended the package at a special-call school board meeting last Wednesday, when the board unanimously approved the request.
The state review committee is a nonpartisan panel that reviews school budgets and considers requests to modify budgetary limitations.
“This is an emergency request for spending authority for one issue, and that is security,” Tate said.
He wants to hire additional personnel as part of the district’s security structure, including a security and outreach specialist, more school resource officers and additional unarmed campus security guards.
The state review committee will convene at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in Des Moines. In advance of the hearing, the Iowa Department of Education recommended allowing the Davenport district to dip into its rainy day fund to spend the additional $1,129,034.
Tate said in an interview that he considered school security to be an emergency that merits permission to spend from the reserves.
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If the committee were to deny using the reserves, it would mean taking the costs of additional security from the ongoing general fund budget instead.
“I have got to decide, we have to decide, how much of a priority the security is. Do we actually now look into our general fund and make even deeper cuts than we have already made in order to afford this enhanced security plan? And if so, what part of it would we fund?” Tate asked.
“I feel very strongly we need security presence at all of our schools,” he said.
Tate made headlines in Iowa when he said in 2015 he intended to violate state law by spending more money per pupil for K-12 education in the district than allowed.
A state law, which still exists, allows some districts to spend $175 more per pupil that others.
Last month, an administrative law judge found Tate guilty of ethical violations in advocating the school board adopt a plan to spend that extra $175 per pupil.
“While Tate is certainly to be commended for his deep concern for and public activism on behalf of his district, one cannot condone such willful failure to comply with the law,” the judge wrote.
Although Tate faces losing his professional license, the state is recommending a public reprimand and additional ethics training.
Tate already has announced plans to retire on June 30, 2019.