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House & Senate agree on $98 million spending hike for K-12 schools

St. Louis Public Schools
Negotiators in the Missouri House and Senate have agreed to boost funding for the state's K-12 schools by $98 million.

One of the bigger obstacles to passing this year’s state budget has been resolved.

Missouri’s public school system is set to get a $98 million boost in next year’s state budget, which was what House leaders wanted, under an agreement reached Monday.

The lower chamber’s proposal for K-12 schools did not include spending any extra money on school transportation. Republican Sen. Dan Brown of Rolla, the chief Senate negotiator, wanted a much smaller classroom increase, $48 million, while raising funding for school buses by $25 million. But Senate negotiators ceded to the $98 million classroom increase after the House agreed to spend an extra $10 million on buses.

“You know, we both made sure we got our number one priority, and that’s how that works sometimes,” said Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, who chairs the House budget committee.

Both increases were welcome news to the Missouri School Boards Association.

“That’s going to be very helpful to local school districts throughout the state of Missouri,” said association Deputy Executive Director Brent Ghan.

The $98 million spending hike will technically fully fund K-12 classrooms next year, but that’s under the scaled-back definition approved by lawmakers two years ago.

“We need to continue to have the debate over what adequately funding our schools really means,” Ghan said. “But overall, given the state’s revenue situation right now, we can’t be unhappy with the funding levels approved by the conference committee.”

He was also happy with the extra $10 million for school transportation: “Over the past 15 years or so, we’ve seen a decline in state support for school transportation, and local school districts have had to pick up more of the share of costs of getting our kids to school.”

Lawmakers have until Friday to send the full state budget to the governor’s desk, which then has to be signed into law by June 30.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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