Will the new budget plan make a real difference to school transportation?
JEFFERSON CITY - Monday night a joint committee of House and Senate members came up with a budget plan they said will fully fund K-12 education for the 2019 Missouri budget.
The $28 billion spending plan still needs approval from the full House and Senate, but the deadline to send the Governor a budget is Friday.
The plan will fund the K-12 foundation formula for a second year in a row.
Missouri School Boards' Association Deputy Executive Director Brent Ghan said the goal of the foundation formula is to offset monetary differences between school districts and that the money is used for operational purposes and personnel. He also said the foundation formula and transportation is the most significant part of the budget.
“The way state funding for public education in Missouri works is it is funded through what’s called the foundation formula, which is the basic state aid photo for funding schools. Schools in Missouri typically rely on state funding and also local funding,” Ghan said.
The plan would also provide an extra $10 million for school transportation. It will require an $18 million increase from last year.
Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said there has been a lot of back and forth with the plan.
“We want to be optimistic that that will gain full approval and then move on to the governor’s desk,” Baumstark said. “We have a long-term financial plan for the school district that allows us to be a able to have a balanced budget, to be able to manage our operating expenses from year to year regardless of where we fall with state funding.”
Of that $98 million, the Senate took $50 million of it and divided it by two. $25 million will go toward K-12 education and the other $25 million will go toward other areas like nursing homes.
“There are some districts that don’t get a lot of local property tax money and they are very dependent on state funding. There are others that can generate a lot of local funding and they don’t get quite as much state funding,” Ghan said.
Ghan said this plan should help significantly since school's rely on local and state funding.
“Our local tax base does cover approximately 60 percent of our operating budget, and so we’re very fortunate in Columbia that our tax payers are supportive of the public school system and they have done so over and over again, most recently approving a tax levy increase for the school district back in 2016,” Baumstark said.
Over the past 15 years, there has been a steady overall decrease in the percentage of money the state has allocated to school transportation.
“Certainly we’re optimistic about any additional funding that may come for transportation. Transportation is one of the areas that is mandated—that we provide transportation for our students to be able to travel to and from school and it’s something in a school district like our district where we geographically cover 300 square miles. That’s a significant expense for us,” Baumstark said.
Supporters said the budget restores $68 million in cuts made in the governor's initial plan. The restoration will come in exchange for keeping higher education tuition increases capped at 1 percent.
Ghan said he believes the plan will go through and be successful, but they advise schools to plan wisely.
“There is always the possibility of withholding because state government has to balance its budget and if the revenue’s not there, the state government can’t spend it. So we always caution our school districts to budget conservatively,” Ghan said.