Lawmakers Defeat Host of School Bills
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The precollegiate education spending figures do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
The 2006 legislative session in Missouri was almost more noteworthy for the education proposals that failed than for those that succeeded.
For example, lawmakers in the Show Me State fended off a bill that would have provided tax credits for donations to organizations that give scholarships for private school tuition and another to mandate the teaching of intelligent design. The GOP-dominated legislature likewise failed to embrace a plan from Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, to put a measure on November ballot that would require schools to spend 65 percent of their funding on classroom instruction.
“The definition didn’t include school nurses, or libraries, or media specialists,” said Brent T. Ghan, the chief communications officer for the Missouri School Boards Association, which fought the governor’s plan. Known as the “65 percent solution,” the proposal is part of a movement cropping up in states across the country. ("Researchers Critique ‘65 Percent Solution’," April 19, 2006.)
Lawmakers did, however, boost state school aid and create a virtual school that will enable students to take online courses.
The $128 million increase that the legislature approved for K-12 aid brings state education spending for fiscal 2007 to $5 billion—nearly 4 percent above the previous fiscal year. It’s the first full payment in the scheduled seven-year phase-in for a new school funding formula approved in 2005.
The new school budget includes $1 million for Missouri’s Parents as Teachers program, an education initiative aimed at the parents of young children.
The increases did not persuade a group of districts to drop their legal challenge to the state’s school finance system. The coalition of more than half the state’s 524 school districts announced that hearings on the suit would begin Jan. 3 in Cole County Circuit Court.
Vol. 25, Issue 43, Page 24