Mike Gronstal

Mike Gronstal

The Iowa Senate’s Democratic leader says he doesn’t “condone” but does sympathize with the decision an eastern Iowa superintendent has made.

Davenport superintendent Art Tate announced this week that rather than cut staff, he will dip deeper into the district’s reserve funds and use more money than allowed by law to make up for a short-fall in state support. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal commented on the situation Thursday during his weekly news conference.

“I don’t condone lawbreaking, either by local superintendents or by House Republicans with the aid of Governor Branstad,” Gronstal said. “Here’s what Iowans need to know about this situation: this is simply the highest profile example of many discouraging events across our state.”

A statement issued by the Iowa Department of Education indicated the superintendent could be charged with a misdemeanor and could lose his job if he follows through on his plan. Tate argues the long-standing formula for distributing state aid to schools needs to be rewritten, to fix the advantage districts in more affluent areas have over districts like his.

Tate has said he’s following the example of Republicans in the legislature who have failed to follow existing state law which requires school funding decisions to be made far in advance. Republicans balked at following the law and did not vote last year to set the amount of general state aid that should be forwarded to districts for the school year that begins in August. Gronstal said there were no meetings this week in the statehouse on the school funding subject and it’s time for Iowans to pester Republicans to make a decision.

“We need to show school boards like the Davenport School Board and to show students like the Davenport students that the State of Iowa will stop eroding our reputation for great schools,” Gronstal said Thursday.

Republicans have proposed a one-and-a-quarter percent increase in general state aid to district for the school year that begins this fall. Democrats propose a four percent increase. That’s a gulf of about $100 million dollars between the two parties.