Missouri legislature grasps at understanding of public school funding
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Missouri legislature grasps at understanding of public school funding

Date: January 18, 2012
By: Stephanie Ebbs
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB454, HB1043

JEFFERSON CITY - The complexity of revising Missouri's system for financing public schools is so complicated that a legislative committee delayed a vote on the issue tso they can better understand the issue.

The formula used to calculate the money given to public schools is incredibly complicated; balancing enrollment, local tax revenue and benchmark wealth to determine each district's funding. The House Education Committee delayed a vote to give members time to further study and understand the formula and the challenges it is facing.

The problem the legislature plans to address is that the current statute doesn't include how to deal with a lack of significant funding increases. Senate Education Committee Chairman David Pearce, R-Warrensberg, and House Education Committee Chairman Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, are sponsoring separate bills to determine how funds would be distributed when the government does not have enough money to meet the formula's appropriation increase requirements.

An increase would be required to meet the law's requirement that more money be appropriateed to under-funded schools without taking money from well-off districts. The governor recommended a $5 million increase in his 2013 budget, which is almost $500 million short of the funds required to fully fund public school districts.

The funding increases are necessary to meet the funding law's requirements to boost state funding to under-funded public schools without taking money from more financially stable districts.

Legislators are under a time crunch to pass a provision to this formula because of concerns that drastic changes in funding could occur in the beginning of the next fiscal year.

Both bills address how the discrepencies in funding would be dealt with for two different types of school districts. For hold harmless districts funding is determined by a static per-student figure; and formula districts have funding recalculated every year. The Senate and House versions of this bill both decrease hold harmless district funding at a lower rate than the decrease to formula schools.

The House committee is scheduled to meet again in two weeks for executive session. The Senate committee has not set a date to vote.

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