Mo. Districts Welcome Higher Funding

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Association of School Administrators told KOMU 8 News Friday districts welcome lawmakers' commitment to increase spending on K-12 education next year.

Lawmakers met Friday's deadline to send a $26.4 billion budget to Gov. Jay Nixon's desk. The spending plan goes into effect July 1 and would allocate $115 million more to K-12 schools. The state spent nearly $3.1 billion on K-12 schools in the current budget year.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, leads the charge on budget making in the Senate and Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, does so in the House. Budget leaders disagreed with Nixon on his forecast for a 5.2 percent revenue increase next year. Stream and Schaefer chose to budget around a 4.2 percent increase.

The budget plan would spend $115 million more and if Nixon's rosier revenue projections are realized, the state would increase funding by up to $278 million over last year.

Mike Lodewegen leads legislative advocacy efforts for the Missouri Association of School Administrators. Lodewegen said more state dollars will help districts with both capital needs and personnel needs.

"The top things that our members and our superintendents are saying the money will be spent for are bus fleets that are sometimes over a decade old, hiring more teachers, hiring reading coaches and mental health counselors."

Lodewegen said school district revenue should be a 50/50 split between local and state tax dollars. Lodewegen said local taxes make up about 60 percent of the funding for districts currently.

"The best benefit to more money coming from the state is that it's going to lead to some relief locally," Lodewegen said. "Local taxpayers aren't going to be asked to make up the difference when the state can't make its commitment."

Lawmakers created the state's education funding formula in 2004 and have never fully funded it. This year's budget underfunded schools by $550 million.

Lodewegen said this year's budget puts a nice down payment on getting closer to fully funding the formula.