Davenport to decide on $8.5 million in school cuts

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This is a case of economics, education and urgency.

"It means that right now we have to act," said Dr. Art Tate,  Davenport superintendent.

As salaries go up and state funding goes down, something's got to give.

In Davenport, that figure could tally $8.5 million over two years.

Dr. Tate describes the situation as devastating.

"You cut out people," he said.  "You cut out programs. You stop doing the things next year that you're doing this year."

The Davenport School Board will hold a special meeting on Friday to consider lowering the requirements for early retirement.

"The times have changed," said Davenport School Board Vice President Rich Clewell.

Among other things, the district must consider closing a yet-unnamed school, dropping dozens of jobs through attrition and changing from a block to traditional schedule to save money.

"We're going to have to look at things that we never intended to have to look at," Clewell said.

Dr. Tate's goal is to spread the cuts evenly as possible while trying to minimize the impact on classrooms.

The district wants to boost its dwindling reserves to $5 million at the end of the two years.

Education enhances economic development.  Still, a private-public partnership like the Creative Arts Academy might be on the bubble.

Dozens of the district's unique features must also be on the chopping block.

"We've just got to look and see if we can afford that unless we get more help from the state," Dr. Tate said.

The school board will likely take up the full cut proposal by mid-March.

"We are going to get into the classroom," Clewell warned.  "There's no doubt about it."

The clock is ticking.

Davenport must deliver a budget by April 15, even if state funding is not secure.

Dr. Tate doesn't like what he hears coming from Des Moines.

"Offering 1.25% to districts when everyone knows that personnel costs go up 3-4% a year is absolutely irresposible, illogical and disrespectful."

For Davenport, tough choices looming over economics and education.