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.
“Since I’ve been up here for seven years, every year we try and go outside the box and try and do something with education reform, and every year...they come up with reasons why ‘no, you can’t do that,’ and ‘no, we shouldn’t do that,’ so we end up getting the status quo," Tilley told reporters following the House's opening session. "In that seven years we shuffled thousands and thousands of kids through failing schools because we weren't willing to challenge the status quo...I'm tired of that, and we're gonna do something this year.”
House Minority Floor Leader Mike Talboy (D, Kansas City) opposes linking school funding and the so-called “Turner Fix” to charter schools and tax credits.
"If we’re gonna deal with Kansas City, if we’re gonna deal with St. Louis, if we’re gonna deal with the foundation formula, let’s do those as their own bills," Talboy said. "Just like I would hope that we deal with data centers, angel investment programs, Aerotropolis, freight forwarders, any of those job creation things I hope we deal with them on their own, because we’ve seen what happens when you roll them all together.”
Leaders in both chambers are again promising to balance the overall state budget without raising taxes. Senate President Pro-tem Rob Mayer (R, Dexter) says that includes not raising taxes on cigarettes or collecting sales taxes on purchases made on the Internet.
“I know that there’s been discussion in the past about it, but with such a weak recovery coming out of the recession of several years ago, now’s not the time to be talking about increasing the tax burden on any segment of our society," Mayer said.
House Republicans also oppose raising the state’s cigarette tax, which, at 17 cents a pack is the lowest in the nation. House Democrats say that a cigarette tax hike and collecting taxes from Internet sales should at least be part of the discussion to bring in more revenue.