State lawmakers heard testimony on broken school funding
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State lawmakers heard testimony on broken school funding

Date: January 10, 2012
By: Jordan Shapiro
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB1043 SB454

JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers heard testimony on how the mechanism to fund school districts is broken.

Legislators heard testimony Tuesday on how the current approach to funding local districts harms certain schools in the event that education is not fully funded. The schools most affected under the current system are known as "hold-harmless" which essentially means their funding cannot be cut.

School districts have not been fully funded since 2009, a trend expected to continue for the next fiscal year. Since 2009, all school districts have lost funds even though about 150 of them are "hold-harmless" and are funded differently than the rest.  

Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, and Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, have filed bills in the House and Senate, respectively, to fix the problem and address budget shortfalls in the future.

"There is nothing now to say how a $300 million shortage is going to be distributed among the schools," said Thomson, a former school administrator and Chairman of the Joint Education Committee. 

After Tuesday's hearing House Education Appropriations Chairman Mike Lair, R-Chilicothe, called Thomson's plan to cap the loses of "hold-harmless" districts the only "feasible" option to dealing with the budget constraints.

"If we prorate everybody the same a lot of these schools that have seen no gain in state aid, basically, are getting the same proration and taking the same cut as those schools who are on the formula or those schools that have gained because of what the formula has given them," Thomson said.

Thomson and Lair both cited lawmakers with local mindsets as potential opposition to solving the formula.

"Some of these guys down here have one district, one superintendent and one school board, so naturally they dance to that tune," Lair said.

About 150 of the state's 523 school districts are considered "hold-harmless" under the current formula. Thomson's bill has been assigned to the House Elementary and Secondary Committee.

 


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