Government & Politics

Nixon seeks $50 million increase for schools, but cuts are still feared

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon The Kansas City Star

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon plans to propose a $50 million increase in basic school aid during Wednesday’s State of the State address, but some education groups already have concerns that it won’t be enough to avoid potential cuts.

The details of the school funding proposal were included in an email sent by a top Nixon staff member to representatives of numerous education groups, one of whom provided a copy to The Associated Press.

School funding is an annual emphasis of both the governor and lawmakers, though they recently have failed to provide as much money as called for under a 2005 state law. Missouri schools are to receive nearly $3.2 billion in basic aid this year. That would have to rise by $482 million – or 15 percent– for schools to be fully funded in the 2016 budget, which takes effect July 1.

Nixon, a Democrat, is to outline his budget and deliver his seventh annual State of the State address Wednesday night to a joint session of the Republican-led House and Senate.

Under Nixon’s budget plan, the $50 million proposed increase could be boosted by an additional $79 million if legislators pass several measures to generate revenues, including expanding Medicaid eligibility under the terms of President Barack Obama’s health care law. But those proposals have failed in past years, and Republican legislators appear unlikely to pass them this session.

Some education groups said a $50 million increase wouldn’t be enough to avoid cuts in certain school districts.

“The amount is disappointing,” said Mike Wood, the government relations director for the Missouri State Teachers Association. “This is going to create problems for our schools. … It could mean teacher layoffs.”

Related stories from Kansas City Star