Missouri Increases School Spending
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2007 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Gov. Matt Blunt has signed into law measures that promise to boost state spending on schools, lessen some of the pain of property-tax increases, and create a new route into the teaching profession.
The $121 million increase in state aid to schools, part of a $21.5 billion state budget for fiscal 2009 that was approved by lawmakers earlier this year, marks the third year Missouri has made good on its promise to phase in a new funding formula for K-12 schools. It represents a 2.5 percent increase over the $2.9 billion the state gave districts last year for basic operations of K-12 schools.
In addition to the increase in school aid, Missouri lawmakers added $3.5 million to the Governor’s A+ Schools Program, which awards scholarships to high school students who want to attend community colleges or career and technical schools, and set aside an extra $2.5 million to expand early-childhood special education programs.
Another $24 million in added funding will go toward expanding the number of Missouri students who qualify for needs-based scholarships to attend colleges and universities in the state. The spending plan also includes a $600,000 increase for the Republican governor’s virtual schools initiative.
The much-debated property-tax-relief measure requires school districts and other local government agencies that impose property taxes to roll back tax rates or hold them steady when property values skyrocket.
Under the state’s new teacher-certification plan, Missouri becomes the eighth state to allow midcareer professionals to join the teaching profession by obtaining a credential from the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, a national program founded in 2001 to provide an alternative to traditional teacher education programs.
Before its May 16 adjournment, the legislature also voted to enlist Missouri in the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, an effort to create smoother school transitions for the children of military personnel moving from state to state. It also toughened state laws against cyber-bullying.
Among the bills rejected this year was one that would have provided tuition tax credits for families placing children with disabilities in private schools and several that would have outlined some parameters for collective bargaining procedures involving teachers and other public employees. Public employees won the right to bargain collectively in Missouri in a May ruling by the state’s supreme court.
Vol. 27, Issue 44, Page 18