Nixon Proposes Education Funding Hikes

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COLUMBIA - Mid-Missouri school districts could see one of the largest funding boosts in a decade if lawmakers sign off on a figure close to what Gov. Jay Nixon proposed in his State of the State address Tuesday.

KOMU 8 News received budget documents Thursday detailing the increases in state aid each school district could receive next year.

Missouri implemented its current public school funding formula in the 2006-2007 school year, but lawmakers and the governor never signed off on a budget that includes the amount called for in the law.

In the current 2014 budget year, the foundation formula will be under-funded by nearly $600 million.

In his State of the State address, Nixon said he intends to fully fund public education before he leaves.

The governor would like to put a down payment on his promise in the 2015 budget year by increasing K-12 education funding by $278 million.

Columbia Public Schools received about $48 million in state aid in the current budget year. In the 2015 budget year, the district would receive about $54.5 million in state aid, an increase of approximately $6.5 million.

Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark told KOMU 8 News the money could go toward increasing teacher salaries and hiring trained specialists who can work with students with special needs.

Baumstark said because the formula has never been fully funded, it puts pressure on the district to come up with more revenues from local taxes to fund the district.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, agreed that public schools should see a funding boost at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.  But Schaefer called the Nixon budget "absolute political fiction." 

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Nixon and Republican leaders in the House and Senate are $370 million apart on what they would like to spend.

Baumstark said she is optimistic about the figures, but they do not account for the fact that Nixon has withheld education funds in the past. Districts then do not receive as much as originally appropriated.

Schaefer said it is inevitable that the Republican legislature will have to make cuts to get a balanced budget.

With the budget currently proposed, Jefferson City Public Schools would get $17.4 million without the increase and $20.1 million with the increase.

Fulton Public Schools would get $7.4 million without the increase, $8.2 million with the increase.

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