The budget cuts that have hit a cherished education program in Missouri will extend into the next budget year. But the legislature has taken steps to let school districts have a little financial buffer.

Budget cuts in this fiscal year have eliminated more than fifteen percent of the funding for the Parents as Teachers program and the program faces even more severe cutbacks in the next budget year. The state budget for fiscal 2011 has 13-million dollars for Parents as Teachers, sixty-two percent less than the program got fiscal 2009. The cuts have left many school districts considering, or making, big cuts in the program for the next school year.

But the legislature has voted to let school districts charge fees for the first time to families in the program.

Missouri was the first state with the program that has spread to all other states 25 years ago and has been the only state that publicly funds the program in all of its school districts. The National Parents as Teachers organization says more than 150-thousand Missouri children are involved this year working with educators and parents to identify children with learning disabilities as young as two years old. The national group says almost sixty percent of the families in the program are considered high need.

But now there’s more uncertainty about the program’s funding. The state budget office says Governor Nixon is going to have to cut or withhold 350-million dollars from the next budget to keep it balanced. The departments with the most money are Social Services…..and Education.

Listen to Bob Priddy’s story :63 mp3