Budget & Finance

Iowa Parents Sue State Over School Funding Formula

By Daarel Burnette II — December 22, 2016 1 min read
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A group of parents in Davenport, Iowa, are suing state lawmakers over what they call an unfair and discriminatory funding formula that they say has left several of the state’s rural and urban school districts shortchanged.

The formula, one of the longest-standing in the nation, places caps on how much districts can spend. Iowa is one of just five states that, until this week, had not been sued over the legality of its funding formula.

The class-action lawsuit was filed Dec. 19 in the Scott County district court on behalf of all parents in the state that receive up to $175 less per student according to the state’s funding formula, said Cathy Cartee, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs.

“Nothing else seemed to be working,” Cartee said. “For the last several years, Davenport has tried to do what’s right and go through the proper channels to change the disparities. We have good reason for suing them. The formula violates basic constitutional rights for all of these students.”

The lawsuit was filed just days after the state sanctioned Arthur Tate, the Davenport superintendent who decided earlier this year to illegally pull $2.7million from his savings account, the amount of money he says the district would have gotten had the state had a fair funding formula. Tate risks losing his superintendent license. I profiled him last year shortly after his school board approved his controversial budget.

Reached by phone this week, Tate said he doesn’t regret his actions.

“I certainly believe that our students have been disadvantaged over the years,” said Tate. “I knew from the beginning that the possibility of me losing my license existed. I’ve worked all my life in two professions, and I have worked honorably for both of those. Right now, today, if I wasn’t spending the money, they still would be undersrved.”

Read the full complaint below.

And read the lawsuit here:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.