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Gov. Jay Nixon seeks full funding for Missouri public schools

Updated: 2013-10-23T01:11:47Z

The Associated Press

— Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says he wants to provide full funding for public schools by the time he leaves office in January 2017 – a goal that would require the state to spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars.

Missouri’s current budget provides almost $3.1 billion in basic aid to elementary and secondary schools. That’s an increase of $66 million over the previous year but still falls about $600 million short of what is called for in Missouri’s school funding formula, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Tuesday.

Because the amount called for by the formula changes annually, state officials project that the current funding level would be $556 million short of the target for the next state budget.

Nixon mentioned his education funding goal during a speech Monday evening to higher education officials in which he also proposed significant funding boosts for colleges and universities and financial aid for students. The Democratic governor, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election in 2016, plans to speak Wednesday to K-12 education leaders.

Missouri changed its school funding formula in 2005 to make it less reliant on local property values and taxes. Instead, the formula establishes funding based on a per-pupil spending target. The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the formula in September 2009.

The new formula was to be fully phased in by 2013, but funding has fallen short of the target every year since 2010, largely because of an economic downturn that put a squeeze on state finances.

The Missouri State Board of Education reviewed the school funding formula Tuesday. Among those currently serving on the state board is Charlie Shields, who sponsored the legislation creating the formula while serving as a Republican state senator. Shields said the formula was written on a rational basis.

During a discussion about ways to improve the formula, Shields suggested a straightforward solution.

“The answer really is to fund it,” he said.

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