First, the good news: Missouri will likely be fully funding our public K-12 schools for the first time ever next year.
This was a bipartisan effort — the work of 10 Republicans and nine Democrats in the Senate — in defiance of Republican leadership.
Because both chambers have now agreed, the funding can’t be cut by negotiators in conference committee, either.
Then, the not-so-great, not really news: You might recall that last year, lawmakers redefined full funding. To make it easier to hit that target, the General Assembly reinstituted a 5 percent growth cap on a key component of the formula for per-pupil funding.
Finally, the still uncertain: With the power of a line-item veto, Gov. Eric Greitens could still undo the $45 million more in basic aid that state senators approved this week, in a vote of 19-14, bringing the total state aid to $3.4 billion.
Republican leaders continue to oppose the funding on the grounds that it will force cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Some GOP members also complained about the process and objected to “rewriting the budget on the Senate floor.”
But there is no more urgent priority than funding the future by assuring Missouri children an adequate education.
And while process matters, the real objection seems to be that members stood up to their leadership.
Opponents are also unhappy that Missouri will now start paying somewhere between $20 million and $60 million for early childhood education under a 2014 law that said the requirement would kick in a year after full funding.
Some critics seem to feel that those who support fully funding public schools are just showing off.
“It’s a game,” Mokane Republican Sen. Jeanie Riddle told The Star, while accusing colleagues of “grandstanding.”
Maybe so, but we’d be glad to see the governor also decide to make a show of doing the right thing for Missouri students.
In truth, even this level of funding is inadequate.
Some senators who opposed the funding bill did so because, given the redefinition of “full funding,” it still falls short.
Some school administrators, too, worry that Missourians will think the under-funding problem has been solved.
It hasn’t been, but this bump is definitely an improvement that our highly political governor surely won’t want to single-handedly undo.