State Senate leaders are vowing to maintain full funding for Missouri’s public schools, despite Governor Jay Nixon’s budget proposals that leave the education Foundation Formula approximately $87 million short of its stated goal.
Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) and Senate Majority Floor Leader Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) made it clear to reporters, during their weekly question and answer session following the Monday Senate session, that they intend to send Governor Nixon a 2011 fiscal year budget that includes full funding for the fifth year phase-in of the formula that the General Assembly agreed to. And that likely means cuts in other areas.
“In my mind you’d probably have to look past education – past K-12 education – to fully fund the Formula,” said Senator Shields. “You’re going to have to find revenues in other departments.”
In his State of the State Address, delivered last week, the Governor talked up spending for additional priorities. Senator Engler doesn’t think it will be possible to take on new challenges, adding school districts could launch legal action over the state’s decision to back away from a funding deal that had been struck.
“It’s one thing to defend your position when you can show, mathematically, that you cannot fund it because you’ve had to cut everything,” said Engler. “It’s another thing to try to defend your position while you start new programs.”
Both agree that while there are several proposals that are worthy of state funding the priority must be public education.
“There are no areas of the budget that are in the untouchable category with the exception of the Formula,” said Shields.
Work on the budget for FY 2011 must be completed by the penultimate Friday of the legislative session. This year the deadline falls on May 7th.