Governor Nixon insists his proposed budget for public schools keeps education spending flat; a questionable claim to some state legislative leaders who worry about the effects of the governor’s plan over the long term.
Education funding stays essentially flat if local school districts follow Governor Nixon’s instructions and hold over a total of $112 million in federal funding into the coming fiscal year.
That’s a lot to ask local schools says House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, a Republican from Kansas City. Silvey says some schools made plans to spend the money as soon as the federal government announced it would be available.
States received additional federal funding this year, specifically for education. The states could not carry the funds over into the next fiscal year, but the Nixon Administration reasons that the local school districts can. Missouri’s share totaled $189 million. The plan outlined by the governor requires that $112 million of that total be used for the next fiscal year to offset an equal reduction in state appropriations for Fiscal Year 2012.
Silvey has an additional worry. He’s concerned about the effect the move would have on the basic school funding formula, the Foundation Formula.
“His proposal absolutely will change distribution through the (Foundation) Formula next year,” Silvey tells reporters.
The lingering effects of the recession have undermined attempts to keep up with stepped funding increases proposed by the new Foundation Formula. The Formula doesn’t work without the increases. Its distribution method to local schools could become unbalanced. The Nixon Administration proposal would drop state appropriations for the Foundation Formula from the present $3 billion in the FY 2011 budget to $2.89 billion in FY 2012.
House Minority Leader Mike Talboy of Kansas City is more sympathetic toward Nixon, a fellow Democrat, though he says districts need to be careful how they spend the federal money.
“If it’s a need where it’s a roof or a new building or different things like that then, yes. If we’re talking about somebody going out and hiring a bunch of teachers, obviously that’s going to create problems with one-time federal funds,” according to Talboy.
As for Nixon, he sees his request of the local school districts as reasonable.
“I think it’s much easier for them to manage money than to manage no money,” Nixon says. “The bottom line is we’re going to work with them to make available the opportunity to have even funding at a time when other states are seeing dramatic cuts to their K through 12 classrooms.”
Nixon acknowledges the plan could throw off the Foundation Formula, but he calls that a “solvable problem”.