A state audit reveals Missouri provided about 32% of state aid to K-12 public schools in 2020 – ranking Missouri 49th in the nation. That means mainly local sources, like property taxes, are picking up the rest of the tab – or cutting some educational programs. State Auditor Nicole Galloway says increased reliance on local property taxes will also lead to increased inequality between Missouri school districts.
The audit reviewed years 2011 to 2020. Galloway tells Missourinet the national average of state aid to schools is about 45%, compared to Missouri’s 32%.
“This has been an ongoing issue for some time,” says Galloway. “The last time that we looked at this in 2018, we found out we were ranked 48th. So, we have consistently been at the bottom of state support for funding K-12 education.”
Missouri has about 555 K-12 public school districts and charter schools.
In fiscal year 2020, Missouri provided about $3.5 billion in state aid to public schools.
According to the audit, funding doled out through the State Adequacy Target, the mechanism used to determine whether the state has met its obligation to fund schools, has not kept up with inflation. In 2011, Missouri paid districts $6,117 per student, compared to $6,375 per student in 2020.
“When you adjust for inflation – how far that dollar will stretch in today’s spending environment – that number has steadily decreased over the past ten years. If you compared 2020 to 2011, it’s about a 9% decrease if you adjust for inflation,” the auditor says.
A state audit Galloway released in 2018 found 68% of Missouri’s school districts had an increase in reliance on local funding from 2006 to 2016. In fiscal years 2015 and 2016, Missouri had the 4th highest percentage of elementary and secondary education funding from local sources in the country.
A 2017 Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education report says the number of schools with over 50% of revenue coming from local sources increased between fiscal years 2006 and 2016 to 170 of the 517 (33%) school districts. Overall, 350 of the 517 school districts (68%) had an increase in the percentage of local funding between fiscal years 2006 and 2016.
Galloway says she wants policy makers to have a total picture as they craft state budget spending.
“The opportunity for a quality education is the key to ensuring our state’s economic growth. I have always said that budgeting is about priorities. If we don’t have context for what our spending for K-12 schools is, it’s really hard for budget makers to make decisions. I think we have all heard that this year there has been a record amount appropriated for K-12 education or we might have heard that the state’s foundation formula is ‘fully funded.’ While that is true, if you scratch beneath the surface just a little bit and put it into context, the picture looks a lot different,” says Galloway.
The foundation formula is the equation used to determine how much funding is doled out to K-12 schools.
To view the full audit, click here.
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