The bill is pitting rural and suburban senators against each other. David Pearce (R, Warrensburg) chairs the Senate Education Committee and represents part of rural west central Missouri. He sponsors the bill that would more evenly spread K-12 funding by siphoning it off from richer suburban districts, primarily those near St. Louis.
In a voice vote Wednesday, the Senate backed a measure that would allow charter schools to be set up in districts that have been declared unaccredited. It would also allow charter schools in some districts that would have been provisionally accredited for three straight years, starting with next school year.
The Missouri House has passed all 13 bills that make up the state’s $24 billion budget for FY 2013.
The process took longer than expected, because of the large number of Democrats who took issue with cutting funding to blind pensions and for not spending enough on K-12 schools. Sara Lampe (D, Springfield) urged fellow lawmakers to look for other ways to balance the budget besides cutting services.
Governor Jay Nixon (D) has released an additional $5 million withheld from this year’s K-12 and Higher Education budgets.
The Nixon Administration says $3 million of the withheld funding will help keep school buses on the road, while just over $2 million will go toward universities and community colleges. Budget Director Linda Luebbering says the move was made because state lottery sales have been better than expected.
Legislation that’s designed to stop a potential mass exodus of students from unaccredited schools in St. Louis and Kansas City to nearby suburban schools was heard Tuesday before a Missouri Senate committee.
The bill’s provisions include scholarships for kids in unaccredited public schools to attend private schools, and it would allow accredited schools to open charter schools in unaccredited districts. Tina Hardin of St. Louis spoke in favor of the bill. Her son was accepted into a Catholic school, but says she can’t afford to send him there.
The 2012 Missouri legislative session is underway, and much of the first-day talk revolved around the challenges facing the state’s public schools.
In addition to Missouri’s K-12 schools not being fully funded, suburban school districts near St. Louis and Kansas City may be forced to accept thousands of transfer students from the inner cities, thanks to the State Supreme Court’s ruling in Turner v. Clayton. House Speaker Steven Tilley (R, Perryville) says any solutions to those problems should include tuition tax credits for kids in unaccredited areas, and statewide expansion of charter schools.
The state Board of Education has denied a school district transfer for a southwest Missouri family in a case that some officials claimed could have encouraged parents statewide to try to switch districts.
State Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro had said a kindergarten pupil should be shifted from the Blue Eye to the Shell Knob district because of a transportation hardship. Nicastro said Table Rock Lake posed a natural barrier resulting in a long bus ride that was a hardship.
Jobless benefits end Saturday for 10,000 of out-of-work Missouri residents because a group of Senators, led by Jim Lembke (R, Lemay), has been blocking the enabling bill. Lembke says they’re sending a message that Washington needs to rein in spending.