A $23 billion state budget for the coming fiscal year has been approved by the legislature and while it holds school funding steady, worries exist that not all school districts will see the same amount of funds next year that they received this year.
State funding for education holds at $3 billion for the coming fiscal year. Yet, Rep. Joe Aull (D-Marshall) pointed out to colleagues that the Foundation Formula, the basic funding formula for schools which is not fully implemented, doesn’t work if it doesn’t receive anticipated increases. Aull said during House floor debate some school districts might well see less state funding next year, a problem that will only grow worse.
“If we don’t do something next year, we’re going to have a huge shift of money going from one set of districts to another,” Aull said during House debate. “This was not the intent when we put the new formula in.”
Each year, the formula isn’t funded, the further out of kilter it gets. The effect is most profound on schools relying on the Foundation Formula. Not all schools do. Some, classified as “hold harmless” districts, don’t receive increases from the formula, but don’t suffer cuts either. Those “hold harmless” districts would keep getting their funding under a stable formula, while the other districts don’t receive scheduled increases.
The new Foundation Formula is being phased in over a long period of time. It’s at 72% phase-in this year, moving to 86% next year. Aull said the real problem occurs once it’s fully phased-in. He said the legislature must address how to distribute education funding if the Foundation Formula isn’t fully funded.
That isn’t the only worry for schools, according to Representative Sara Lampe (D-Springfield), who insisted during floor debate that standing pat is falling behind.
“Even though schools are going to receive the same amount of money in Foundation Formula this year that they receive last year, all prices have gone up,” Lampe stated. “The cost of salaries has gone up. The cost of health care has gone up. The cost of gasoline has gone up.”
School districts will have to decide how best to handle spiking fuel prices. Governor Nixon has withheld $55 million in school transportation funding this year. The legislature has appropriated only $10 million more for the next fiscal year than what they have actually received this year, a total of $108 million.