Democrats say more money needed to get students to school

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JEFFERSON CITY - House Democrats want more funding for K-12 transportation and the Columbia School Board agrees.

“Desperately underfunded," said CPS School Board Member Jonathan Sessions. "We should be reimbursed to the tune of about $10 million. We are reimbursed to about $2 million, and it costs us a little over $12 million just to run our bussing program.”

In the state's budget this year, Gov. Mike Parson has outlined $61.4 million for the Elementary and Secondary Education formula to fully fund K-12 education. This includes a recommendation for $10 million for the transportation foundation.

Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said that still leaves transportation well short of what it needs.

“That does not come anywhere close to adequately funding, as it’s currently written in statute," Kendrick said. "We’re well underfunding that by over $100 million.”

With transportation being underfunded, Sessions said, it ends up being paid for with money from other areas.

“So even when the state says they’re full funding the foundation formula, if they're not fully funding the transportation aspect that, money has to come from somewhere, which means it’s coming from students," he said.

Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, said a balanced budget is required, so it is harder to meet all the needs in the state.

He said a possible way to ease the tension would be letting school districts and their cities work together and use city transit systems to transport students.

“It’ll sure help Columbia, for example, or any city that has a mass transit system," Basye said. "I know that Dr. Stiepleman told me that, for every yellow bus line they could eliminate, it would save about $100,000, which, that’s a lot of money and they could use that in other places.”

Last week, Basye filed a bill to allow CPS to work with the city of Columbia to use city transit to get students to school.

Besides transportation funding, Democrats also said they want to focus on more accountability for charter schools and decreasing lunch-shaming in schools.

Basye said Republicans' main focus is fully funding Parson's Elementary and Secondary Education Formula.