March 14, 2002

'Fully Funded' Formula Could Still Mean School Budget Cuts

While the publicity coming out of Jefferson City is all about full funding of the education foundation formula and how schools are the top priority in a tough budget year, the Missouri School Boards' Association recently released some news to the contrary.

A March 8 release by MSBA reported that the House Appropriations Committee- Education approved what was termed "massive" cuts in the budget for elementary and secondary education. The MSBA story indicated that as much as $30 million had been removed from the state education budget.

A portion of the cuts came from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in reductions in administrative expenses and positions.

However a large portion of the decrease came from funding that goes directly to the state's schools.

MSBA indicated $15 million or 10 percent of the state's special education budget had been removed. The gifted education program also took a 10 percent decrease in funding.

Other programs that witnessed significant funding cuts were the Missouri Scholars and Fine arts academies, technology grants, the Leadership Academy, the Safe Schools program, Caring Communities, school aged child care and the Character Plus Initiative.

MSBA stressed that this is simply a committee recommendation and the provision must next move on to the House Budget Committee. However it is asking all individuals concerned by the education cost cuts to contact their representative to voice their opinion.

MSBA indicated it was unclear at this point if the cost cuts were being made in order to make fully-funding the school foundation formula possible.

Regardless, it still represents a $30 million funding decline as these programs mentioned are not included in the formula, and would be a loss to all schools in the state.

At the same time educators are concerned about the possibility of legislators lowering the foundation formula figures in order to appear to be "fully funding" education. If the formula is decreased, education could in fact be fully funded, despite a dramatic decline in state funding for schools.

The legislature is reportedly considering lowering the formula roughly $4,600 per student to $139,507 for purposes of calculating the foundation formula. That would be the equivalent of a $45 million reduction in state funding of education.

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