The clock is ticking, and time is running out on efforts to adequately fund education for public school students in the state of Missouri.
Under discussion today at December’s State Board of Education meeting is the need to work with the governor and General Assembly to change the school funding formula before it’s too late.
“Given the reality of the current economic challenges that face Missouri,” according to a report the board will discuss during their meeting, “the State Board of Education should strongly recommend to the Executive and Legislative Branches, that they diligently work together to enact legislation to modify the current Foundation Formula to avert severe adverse consequences that will impact many school districts as the result of full phase in of the formula on July 1, 2012.”
State legislators designed their most recent school funding formula — known as the Foundation Formula — to be phased in gradually. However, because Missouri’s revenues have declined since the beginning of the Great Recession, more money for education has not been available since 2009. If the clock ticks down to July 1 and revenues do not increase, resources will be unevenly distributed among districts, which was not the intent of the law.
A 1993 state court decision declared Missouri’s school funding formula at the time unconstitutional, because resources were unevenly distributed among districts. Per pupil spending ranged from $4,704.11 in one district to $15,251.28 in another. Missouri’s state legislature has struggled since then to provide adequate funding for all public school students. The current law, which the State Board of Education would like to change, has been on the books since 2005 and is supposed to be fully phased in by 2014. However, projections show state revenues will not increase enough by that time to provide full funding, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) projects an eventual shortfall of more than $714 million.
DESE has been calling attention to this issue since at least last January, when the department issued a press release asking the legislature to “stop the clock” on phasing in of the funding formula.
And the General Assembly is considering the issue. Last September, the Joint Committee on Education heard a presentation on implementation of the funding formula and its impact on school districts. The KC Education Enterprise created a comic book version of this presentation earlier this fall to provide an easy-to-read summary of that report. School funding is expected to be on the agenda during the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.
Missouri’s State Board of Education usually holds its monthly meeting in Jefferson City. However, the December meeting is taking place today and tomorrow at the Chateau on the Lake in Branson.
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