Davenport School Board discusses budget cuts at special meeting Tuesday

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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The Davenport School Board held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss a number of cost-cutting proposals.

Davenport School District would have had to pay themselves back 12 million dollars back due to overspending. The School Budget Review Committee says they don't have to pay back nine million of that.

The meeting started at 5 p.m. at the Achievement Service Center, 1702 N. Main St. An open forum was held prior to the board discussion to allow the public to comment.

In January, the School Budget Review Committee approved a motion to relieve more than $9 million overspent by the district.

However, they are still on the hook for the more than $2.7 million that was intentionally overspent in 2016.

Toby Paone, the Director of the Iowa State Education Association compared the budget cuts to a jigsaw puzzle: "We know the overall size of the jigsaw puzzle but we don't know the size of the individual pieces. Some are going to shrink, some are going to grow."

Cost-cutting proposals the board will consider are:

• Relocation of the Creative Arts Academy
• Closure of Keystone Academy and replacing it with a school-within- a-school model and virtual academy
• Modified block schedule at the high schools
• Take 9th-graders out of Mid-City in 2021
• Redesign the central off and administrative team
• Amend board policy on minimum class size
• Restructure service delivery with teacher-librarians
• Health insurance committee to investigate plan adjustment opportunities
• "Right-size" staff through attrition and retirement

Other options the board can consider include closing two elementary schools, closing a middle school, closing a high school, reducing extracurricular activities, switching to a traditional schedule, and increasing bussing range.

150 staff cuts are anticipated between this year and the next. 137 teachers have already been let go in Davenport schools. "People who are currently employed are constantly looking in the rearview mirror thinking 'am I next?' and that's a terrible place to be. You want to be able to grow and not think 'am I on the chopping block?'" explained Paone.

Class sizes have already been affected. They went from an average of 25 to 35 students per teacher. "People like stability and people like continuity... sure if you don't know if your school is gonna remain open or if your teachers are going to be laid off, that's a concern," said Paone.

No action will be taken at Tuesday's meeting. When asked when the board could vote on the proposals, district spokesman Mike Vondran said “next step items” will be determined at Tuesday’s meeting.

"There are some challenging decisions that need to be made, no question about it. These are significant changes. They're not radical, like if we had lost those 9 million. We'd be closing doors," said Paone.

The school funding fight started in 2015 after then-superintendent Art Tate unsuccessfully lobbied for change. Tate said he would use reserve money to make up for the district's funding inequality. Davenport said it did not receive the same amount of money per student as some other schools.

Current Superintendent Dr. Robert Kobylski said Jan. 29 the legislation still hasn't been passed for equal funding among Iowa school districts.