Missouri education agency requests nearly $100M more for next school year | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri education agency requests nearly $100M more for next school year

Sep 19, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri education leaders want to spend about $121 million more on K-12 public schools next school year, they told the State Board of Education on Tuesday, though it’s not clear whether the state can afford it..

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education outlined its proposed budget in Jefferson City, which would include a $98.9 million increase in the K-12 funding formula.

“This request reflects the amount needed to fund the formula, based on the current statute,” chief budget officer Jennifer Jordan said.

That request, board President Charlie Shields said, is based on what DESE believes is necessary to educate each Missouri public school student during the 2018-19 school year. But it’s up to lawmakers to pass the budget next spring.

“If the governor and the legislature agree with that, great,” he said. “If they don’t, we understand they have responsibility for the entire state budget.”

Nearly half of the $98.9 million hike in the formula would cover early childhood education needs, a provision included in a 2014 law that added in pre-K funding that was triggered once the formula became fully funded.

A 2016 bill lowered the definition of what was considered to be full funding for the state’s public schools, citing that the old formula was set too high and kept rising each year. Former Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, but the GOP-majority legislature overrode him.

The proposed funding formula for the 2018-2019 school year also includes:

  • $4.3 million for early childhood special education
  • $8.4 million for increased costs for K-12 special education students
  • $8.5 million for First Steps

House budget committee chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, indicated DESE’s request will likely be at the mercy of Medicaid spending.

“The large budget consumers, particularly the departments of Social Services, Mental Health, Health and Senior Services — those are three departments that consume a lot of general revenue,” he said.

Of note

Gov. Eric Greitens is having a hard time filling a vacancy on the board of education.

Springfield businesswoman Heidi Crane was nominated last week to represent southwestern Missouri, but Shields said she has declined the opportunity.

Crane was to have replaced Melissa Gelner, another Springfield businesswoman. She told the Springfield News-Leader last week that her nomination to the board was withdrawn because she had been pressured “to make rash leadership decisions.” Gelner did not list any specifics, but it’s been widely suggested on social media that Greitens wants to remove current Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven and bring in his own choice to the post.

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport