K-12 education gets big wins in proposed FY 2023 budget

      Missouri schools and teachers would receive a number of boosts in the state spending plan approved last week by the legislature; a state budget that is one of the largest ever.  The final total proposed to go to K-12 schools exceeds $10-billion.

Representative Rusty Black (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“It is making an unprecedented investment in K-12 education in the State of Missouri and it is doing that in a couple different ways,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage).

      The top Democrat on the budget committee, Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis), said, “[This budget proposal] is moving us back in the direction of showing that we as a state, we as a legislature, value K-12 education.”

      More than $21-million was included to boost base teacher pay by $13,000 a year, to $38,000.  The plan is a state/local split, with districts covering 30-percent of the cost for that increase. 

      Another $37-million would restart the Career Ladder program, which rewards teachers who have at least five years of experience for taking on extra responsibilities and professional development opportunities. 

      Representative Ingrid Burnett (D-Kansas City), a former teacher, school counselor and principal, said she was glad to see the state resume funding career ladder, a program that she often took advantage of during her career. 

      “I found it really helpful.  It was part of our family budget.  It was how we paid for things like the summer vacation or braces for the children,” said Burnett.

      Rusty Black (R-Chillicothe), who chairs the subcommittee on education appropriations and also worked as a teacher for 32 years, also appreciated the career ladder funding.

Representative Ingrid Burnett (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “As somebody that received that once, I think there’s value in that for our students, not just teachers.  Students get something out of those extra hours that are spent with them trying to make their lives better.”

      School bussing would also see an increase over the current fiscal year’s budget.

      “There’s an additional $214-million appropriated there and that is, again, an unprecedented level of funding in that regard,” said Smith.

      Merideth spoke for many Democrats in praising that increase.

“Something that we’ve been funding at below 40-percent for the last number of years we’re finally funding at 100-percent.  That’s another 200-plus million dollars going to our schools for their transportation costs,” said Merideth, who said this could lead to additional boosts in faculty pay.  “The fact that we’re fully funding school transportation is going to give schools some flexibility to be able to provide the local match they need and to give raises elsewhere.”

      Black, who was an agriculture teacher throughout his career, was excited by proposed increases to match programs to benefit career technical schools.  Local districts could upgrade equipment or facilities if they come up with 25-percent or 50-percent of the cost.

      Black said this would, “Help students with up-to-date equipment to [be able to] leave school and go into the workforce and see something that’s not 30, 40 years old in the shop at school, and get into a place and oh, it’s got a computer attached to it.”

      Burnett said she was glad to see this level of support proposed for Missouri K-12 education.  She said past years, when less money was appropriated, were like when she was teaching and would be confronted by an angry parent. 

“If the administration doesn’t have your back, you can’t understand that until the administration doesn’t have your back … to help mediate the situation.  To give you support on how to engage with the parent in a way that was not going to be escalatingwhen the administration is not getting that from the state, it’s the same.  You just feel like you’re out there on an island.”

      Black and other lawmakers stressed that much of the funding in the spending plan comes from non-recurring sources, like federal stimulus and COVID response.  Part of the challenge in appropriating that money is in finding targets that will give schools the best chance of long-term benefit, rather than supporting programs that might go unfunded in future years when those funding sources aren’t available.

Representatives Peter Merideth (left, seated) and Cody Smith (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“We just hope the people at the local level making those decisions are doing a good job making those decisions, spending this money that we have one-time to help reduce future costs so that those long-term items maybe with their local budgets, they can do a good job with,” said Black.  “One-time doesn’t automatically mean that it’s not going to be there next year, it’s just not making the guarantee to people that it’s going to be there.  Honestly in my years of dealing with government before this, there is no guarantee.  From year-to-year it’s a new budget and people making decisions at the local level, they know that too.”  

      The Fiscal Year 2023 budget would also provide grants or reimbursements of up to $1,500 to parents and guardians to cover tutoring and other services meant to catch up K-12s students who fell behind due to the COVID pandemic, and would provide pay increases to providers of the Parents as Teachers and First Steps programs.

      That spending plan is now before Governor Mike Parson (R).  If he approves it, it would take effect July 1.

House members prepare for conference with Senate on FY ’19 budget

Missouri House budget leaders are preparing to confer with their counterparts in the state Senate about the two chambers’ respective budget proposals.

House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (left) fields questions from reporters as House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) listens. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

The House last month passed the 13 bills that make up the proposed state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.  Its plan laid out more than $28-billion in spending.  The Senate spent the last month going over that plan and making changes to it, and this week endorsed its own proposal totaling more than $28.6-billion.  Now the two chambers will have to work out an agreement between the two versions that can be sent to the governor by May 11.

“[The Senate] spent a little more money than we did but I think that they have a good budget plan that is workable for conference,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob).

Of the more than $570-million dollar difference between the two chambers’ spending plans, roughly $261-million comes from the Senate proposing spending in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget that the House plan would address in a supplemental budget early in calendar year 2019, when better data would be available on how much must be spent in some cases.

As far as the various components of the budget, Fitzpatrick said the greatest difference between the two chambers’ proposals in terms of dollars is in what each would spend on K-12 education.  Full funding for the K-12 education formula in Fiscal Year 2019 would be about $99-million.  The House proposed that, while the Senate took the position found in the governor’s budget proposal of spending $48-million.

“[The Senate] did use some of that money within House Bill 2002, which is the education budget bill, so we have the flexibility of moving some of that around,” said Fitzpatrick.  “It’s not a secret that one of my top priorities is fully funding the [K-12 education funding] formula and keeping our commitment on the pre-K expansion that most of the members that are serving today made a few years ago, that once we fully funded the formula that that expansion would be available.”

The top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Representative Kip Kendrick (Columbia), said the Senate’s proposal for K-12 education funding is concerning and House members would work to maintain its position on that.

“I was happy to hear the chairman of the committee, Representative Fitzpatrick, talking about making sure that we’re going to hold that line, and I can tell you that we’re going to do whatever we can to hold that line for the foundation formula to make sure that we get back to that $99-million mark,” said Kendrick.

One issue that has already been settled is that of higher education funding and limiting tuition increases at all but one of the state’s publicly-supported colleges and universities.

The House chose to restore $68-million to higher education support that the governor proposed cutting, but only if institutions agreed not to increase tuition by more than one-percent in fiscal year ’19.  Those institutions agreed except for Missouri Southern in Joplin, which House members agreed is in a financial situation dire enough that they were allowed to opt out.  The Senate proposal has upheld that plan.

“It wasn’t something that the House could do on [its] own so we appreciate the Senate working with us on accomplishing that,” said Fitzpatrick.  “I think it will result in a positive outcome for the families and students who pay tuition in the State of Missouri.”

Kendrick is also glad to see that plan preserved but has some concern with the Senate breaking out funding for special initiatives at colleges and universities, which typically go toward projects including construction and expansion.  The House had rolled the money for those items into the core allocation for institutions.

Representative Kip Kendrick is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

“Those received additional funds but I have concerns that those have been line-itemed back out rather than wrapped up in the core.  [The House] moved them into core to protect those lines.  We have some concerns that with them being separated out that they become more vulnerable for complete withholds or vetoes – just more vulnerable out there standing alone – so we’ll do what we can to move those back into the core,” said Kendrick.

Kendrick is also concerned about more than $4-million that the Senate proposed moving out of funding for treatment courts in Missouri – those are drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans courts.

“[Those are] services that have been proven very effective in reducing recidivism rates.  The actual recidivism rate for an offender coming out DOC is about 50-percent recidivism; treatment courts is around 15-percent recidivism,” said Kendrick, who has personally worked with people going through mental health courts.  “It does keep people out of prison.  It keeps them in services, making sure that they are properly rehabilitated and receiving the services they need.”

Kendrick wants to see the House work to hold its position on the support for treatment courts.

Other differences between the House and Senate spending proposals that either Fitzpatrick or Kendrick highlighted concern funding in the social services budget for nursing homes; whether state-appropriated money can be used for DUI checkpoints; funding for autism services; and increases in state employee pay, including a Senate proposal to boost pay specifically for corrections officers – a proposal Fitzpatrick said the House would try to find a way to concur with.

Fitzpatrick will begin next week meeting with his Senate counterpart, Senator Dan Brown (R-Rolla), and each chamber will begin selecting members for committees that will meet to negotiate compromises on each of the 13 budget bills.

Legislature’s budget follows House lead; fully funds K-12 schools for first time

The state legislature has passed a budget proposal that for the first time fully funds the current form of the K-12 education funding formula.  The $27.7-billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would pump $48-million more dollars into the state’s public schools, providing them with nearly $3.4-billion.

Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The inclusion of full funding of the formula was a personal win for House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob).

“It was the number one thing I was going to figure out how to do when I released the [earliest version of the House’s budget proposal], was to fully fund the formula,” said Fitzpatrick.  “I made that decision early on.”

House Democrats including Representative Deb Lavender (Kirkwood) say they are pleased with the funding increase, but point out that the legislature passed last year a bill reinstating a cap on how much the formula can grow year-to-year.

“Yes we’re fully funding the foundation formula – at a rate of $450-million less than what the foundation formula would have been a year-and-a-half ago,” said Lavender.  “So, are we fully funding that?”

Representative Deb Lavender (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Deb Lavender (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Democrat Leader Gail McCann Beatty (Kansas City) said the budget included a “phantom fully funding of the formula.”

Republicans said reinstating that cap meant the formula would not continue to grow beyond what the legislature could appropriate.

“When the General Assembly took that cap off in 2010, starting at that point the formula has never been funded.  They tweaked the formula in a way that made it unfundable,” said Fitzpatrick.  “My contention would be that the formula that was agreed to in 2005, that everybody got in a room and worked out, is fully funded.”

The legislature’s proposal would also restore funding for school transportation, which Governor Eric Greitens (R) had proposed cutting.

The House and Senate voted to send that budget to Greitens Thursday, one day ahead of the constitutional deadline, and one day after selected House and Senate conferees finalized a compromise between each chamber’s proposals.

House Budget Chairman proud of proposed full funding of education

The House Budget Committee Chairman is proud of a budget proposal that would accomplish what’s been his top goal since taking that job.

House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Shell Knob Republican Scott Fitzpatrick said in August when he became the budget chairman that his number one priority was to fully fund Missouri’s public schools.  He recently unveiled budget bills that included fully funding the K-12 school formula.

If that part of the budget were to become law, it would be the first time the formula’s current form has had full funding since it was created by Senate Bill 287 in 2005.

“We’re making another year of record investment in K-12 public education,” said Fitzpatrick.  “To me that’s the single biggest thing of which I’m most proud, and the other thing is we did it without spending any more than the governor and the General Assembly agreed to spend.”

Some have noted that the full funding would come one year after the legislature reinstated a cap on how much the formula could grow, year-to-year.  Fitzpatrick said without those caps, the growth in the formula was unsustainable.

“When I got in to the General Assembly the formula was $400-million underfunded, and over the next three or four years we added about $300-million, I think, in funding to the formula, and it was still about $400-million underfunded,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick’s proposal would also reject Governor Eric Greitens (R) proposed cut of all funding to K-12 transportation.

“That’s an important part of what we’re doing with education is that we’re not taking money from transportation and just putting it into the formula to say we fully funded the formula.  We’re making the commitment that we’ve made in previous years to funding transportation as well as fully funding the formula,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick’s budget is based in part ON passage of a bill that would end a tax break for low-income seniors and disabled renters.  The money the state would save from that repeal would go to a program that provides in-home care for the elderly and disabled.

“We’ve invested every single dollar of that back into services for seniors – low-income seniors and a little bit as well for people with disabilities,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick believes a property tax credit should be for people who own their homes and are working to pay it off, “especially because people who are receiving nursing home services being completely paid for by Medicaid are eligible to receive the renter’s portion of the credit, so somebody could be in a nursing home that’s already being completely paid for by the state and then on top of that the state will write a check to them for what’s supposed to represent a credit for property taxes that they paid, and that seems to me to not make a lot of sense.”

The House has passed the legislation repealing that portion of the credit. It must next be considered by the Senate.

Fitzpatrick’s budget also restores some of the state aid to colleges and universities that the governor proposed reducing.  Fitzpatrick said he wanted to minimize the impact reductions would have on students in Missouri.

When legislators return next week from spring break, the full House Budget Committee will debate changes to Fitzpatrick’s proposal before sending it on to the full House, which could make further changes.  It then faces debate in the Senate before going to Governor Greitens, who could sign it into law, veto it in part or in whole, or make spending restrictions.