Tough budget times have state lawmakers considering adjustments to the basic funding formula for public schools and even considering cutting school funding for the first time.

Legislators no longer even consider keeping up with the budget increases needed to maintain the new formula to fund public schools which took effect in 2005. Lawmakers stubbornly stuck with the schedule when first implemented even while trimming other state programs and services. That ended last year when legislators froze state appropriations to the basic funding formula for public school districts, known as the foundation formula.

Sen. David Pearce, a Republican from Warrensburg, has filed a bill that would adjust the formula based on the money available.

“What I’m trying to do in this legislation is get the discussion going and I want to get something hopefully decided early in the session so districts can make some decisions,” Pearce told the Missourinet in an interview. “We waited too late last year, in my opinion, to give good direction to our local school districts.”

Pearce’s measure, SB 12, hinges on education appropriations in Fiscal Year 2010. If the legislature appropriates money at or above 2010 levels, the foundation formula phase-in gets extended a year. If it falls below, all school districts take a cut, even so-called hold harmless districts which don’t receive more funding from the new formula.

Governor Nixon will unveil his proposed budget for FY 2012 during his State of the State address the evening of January 19th. Though the governor and legislators project state revenue to grow by about 4% during the next fiscal year, they note that tax revenue still won’t match that taken in by the state in FY 2008. The fall in state revenue combined with the drastic drop in help from the federal government, and state revenue for the next fiscal year is expected to fall $300-700 million short of that needed to fund present programs and services.

Pearce says lawmakers can no longer promise schools that education funding won’t be touched.

“I think everything’s on the table,” Pearce said. “Even though we don’t like to consider that or it could be a last resort, I think that with this budget that we’re facing, everything will be up for discussion.”

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:15 MP3]