This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 4, 2011 - The filibuster now taking place in the Missouri Senate could hurt the pocketbooks of St. Louis area school districts, which stand to gain a large chunk of the $189 million in federal grant money that some Republican legislators want to refuse.
At stake for the St. Louis Public Schools is $8.8 million, the area's largest district allocation under a breakdown made public by the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. But it is hardly alone. The Hazelwood school district is at risk of losing $3.87 million, followed by $2.96 million for the Fox district in Jefferson County, $2.67 million for the Ferguson-Florissant district, and $2.4 million for the Wentzville district.
(Click here to view the entire statewide list of districts, and how much they are expected to receive from the federal aid, if accepted. )
The Nixon administration had hoped to dole out the money this year in two installments, some this current fiscal year. Most would be allocated in the next fiscal year that begins July 1. The money would replace state school aid that the district might not otherwise receive because of the state's financial problems.
Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, highlighted the federal money to schools at a news conference last Friday in which he departed from his usual silence about the Republican-controlled legislature. Instead, the governor blasted the four senators blocking the school money, along with another $105 million in additional federal unemployment benefits that would go to about 30,000 Missourians who have yet to find work and have exhausted their previous 79 weeks of federal benefits.
The filibustering legislators -- including state Sens. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, and Brian Nieves, R-Washington -- say they want to reject the federal aid to send a message about government overspending and the increased national debt.
The state House overwhelmingly voted to accept the aid weeks ago. Republican leaders in the state Senate say they have the votes and are expected to try again to pass the bill authorizing acceptance of the federal money -- the last chunk of stimulus aid that Missouri is expected to receive.