Faced with a $43 million shortfall in the education budget this fiscal year, House members have voted to continue to hold harmless those school districts not receiving extra money from the basic school funding formula.

It nearly came down to urban versus rural school districts.

Rep. Rachel Bringer (D-Palmyra) proposed an amendment to HB 2014, a supplemental budget bill needed to align the current budget with revised financial numbers. Bringer proposed that all school districts take a 2% budget cut, not just those receiving more money under the new school funding formula.

“When you’re exempting out the hold harmless districts like Kirkwood, you’re asking Canton and Ralls County and Palmyra and Hannibal to take Kirkwood’s share of the cut and that’s completely unfair,” Bringer said during House debate.

Kirkwood is a “hold harmless” district, meaning the state froze its funding level to the district when the new formula went into effect. Under the new school funding formula, about 150 districts would have taken a cut in state funding. Instead, they were “held harmless” in the formula and their state funding remained stable. They also have not received an increase in state funding in the first four years of the phase-in of the state formula.

Bringer kept referring to Kirkwood in her remakes, because the district spends $11,500 per pupil, far more than most Missouri school districts. Kirkwood Representative Rick Stream, a Republican, defended the district, stating it spends more per pupil because it raises more from local taxpayers.

“We have increased the assessed valuation. We have increased the tax rate. These are conscious decisions on the part of district residents to do that and I don’t think we should be penalized because we have consciously raised taxes on ourselves so that we can fund our schools properly,” Stream told Bringer during House floor debate.

Others state representative voiced opposition to the amendment, pointing out that not all of the “hold harmless” districts are wealthy, some were held harmless because of declining enrollment, such as the very smallest school districts in the state.

Bringer’s amendment failed on a 73-to-83 vote. The House then gave tentative approval to the supplemental budget bill.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]