Fulton school board meets

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FULTON - The Fulton Public School Board met Wednesday night to discuss how a new law lowering Missouri's state school funding goals by more than $300 million will affect the district. Fulton Public School's Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said he thinks the new law could actually lead to an increase in funding to his district. 

"I'm optimistic that it will stabilize our revenue and the state will not be quibbling over what is full funding and actually fund what they said they were going to fund," Cowherd said. 

The new formula lowers the state's full-funding education goal from 3.8 billion annually to about 3.4 billion. 

Last week, after Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the then-bill, both the House and Senate voted to undo his action. Those in favor of the bill, such as Cowherd, hope the lowered cap will make it easier for the legislature to reach funding goals. 

"We're gonna try to fund the reduced state adequacy formula, and if that's true, we will come out ahead, and that will be a positive. It's not near the positive as if the old formula was full funded, but we've been stagnant at a certain level for the past three or four years," Cowherd said. 

Cowherd said if lawmakers meet their new expected goals next year, the Fulton School District could see more than an $1 million increase in funding it receives from the state. Currently, the district receives about $7.7 million in state funding.

Cowherd said his district is struggling to pay teachers what they deserve, and the additional money could go a long way. 

"We're at our maximum class sizes. The other, real big issue, is being competitive with districts around us. We're losing teachers to Columbia and Jeff City, and, you know, I don't blame them a bit if you can go to Columbia and make an additional five thousand dollars," Cowherd said. 

Karen Snethen, the district's director of public relations, said new funds would address several pressing issues. 

"Additional funding would allow us to increase staff salaries and to reduce class sizes. After operating on a pretty tight budget, additional funds would also allow the purchase of more resources for the classroom," Snethen said. 

Cowherd said if lawmakers meet their goal next year, Fulton teachers would see about a $500 increase in base pay. The board also unanimously voted to increase the price of school lunches by ten cents in order to match a federally mandated formula. Cowherd said if the district didn't increase the price of lunches, it would lose federal funding the school uses to provide free and reduced lunches to students who need them. 

"We started a plan several years ago to raise lunch prices about 10 cents a year," Cowherd said. "We suspended that the last two years, because we adjusted through grant money."

The school board also voted to copywright the district's new logo, and discussed the idea of charging vendors that try to use the logo for profit.