Missouri public schools to use standard budget after using reserves due to the pandemic

MISSOURI – School districts across Missouri will receive millions in previously restricted funding, which will be used to address the learning gaps created due to the pandemic.

Governor Mike Parson announced Monday that he would release the rest of the restricted budget, which gives $123 million to K-12 public schools across Missouri.

Phil Murray, Missouri National Education Association President, said these released funds are nothing new and that districts have had to bear the brunt of the restrictions up to this point.

“These are the moneys that districts were expecting and counting on all year long. Many of these districts actually use their reserves to get through the most difficult part of this. And of course, this exposes the fragile nature that school funding is,” Murray said.

Each school district is required to have a certain level of reserves, but some are able to go above it. This all depends on local resources and property taxes to fund schools.

Murray said this budget restriction release will allow districts to go back to their standard budgets after using reserves to pay most of the expenses.

Melissa Randol, Executive Director of the Missouri School Board’s Association, said expenses from PPE and technology were "obviously not in the budget" at the start of the pandemic.

As the pandemic began, Randol said medical institutions were going down the same unknown path that schools were. Districts were asked to donate supplies like masks and thermometers. Now that 94% of K-12 students are back in-seat, schools are needing to buy additional resources to keep them safe.

“Those were costs obviously that we didn't budget for. And the CARES Act money helped alleviate some of that. There was a lot of technology expenses that we incurred, and are still incurring, actually to help ensure that all of our students can access the curriculum,” she said.

Randol said the release of the funds will be helpful to restore some of the shortfalls that districts had last year.

“That will help school districts with these extraordinary costs that they've had to absorb throughout this year, and hopefully be able to move into summer school," Randol said. “This is applied to our operating costs and will allow school districts not to have to reallocate funds from other areas to cover their basic operating costs.”

Moving forward, Murray said he believes districts will remain creative on how to maintain education even when disruption or emergency hits.

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