The Department of Education is concerned about a funding shortfall, but looks forward to working with the legislature on addressing the problem. Missouri’s school foundation formula is the mechanism the state uses to distribute money to public schools. It has gone underfunded in recent years, and Department of Education Commissioner Chris NiCastro says this year’s outlook is no better.

She says the formula was never designed to be underfunded, and bills filed during the upcoming legislative session will seek to fix that. She says if the structure isn’t reformulated, there will be vast funding differences between districts, creating an environment of winners and losers throughout the state.

NiCastro it’s going to be difficult for the legislature to maintain level funding this year, but the department is still hopeful it will happen. The Department, she says, anticipates working with legislators when they come into session Jan. 4.

The current formula the state uses to fund public schools was revised during the the 2005 legislative session, before the economy plummeted.

The new, higher-funding formula was to be phased in over a seven-year period, but the failure to fully fund the formula has thrown that schedule way off. The phase-in process began at the start of fiscal year 2007, which is in July, 2006, with schools receiving 17 percent of their state funding from the new foundation formula and 85 percent from the formula that was written in 1993.

The plan was that each year, the phase-in plan would progressively raise the percentage of funds based on the new, higher foundation formula. For this year, 2012-2013 year, Missouri’s schools should be at 100 percent of the new formula. That has not happened.

NiCastro says she anticipates the legislature will try to rewrite legislation to fix that this year.