Missouri’s schools underfunded by $656 millionMarch 19, 2014, 11:43 am CDT
By Jacob Kirn
Digital Producer- St. Louis Business Journal
Missouri’s K-12 schools are underfunded by $656 million in the 2013-2014 school year, according to a study released Wednesday by the Missouri Budget Project, a nonprofit that advocates for policies that help low- and moderate-income people.
The study, which uses the state’s “foundation formula” adopted by lawmakers in 2005, says funding for this year is 17 percent below its required level.
Its authors, including Executive Director Amy Blouin, said, “Missouri can’t afford to further erode its tax base with tax cuts that will make it even harder to invest in Missouri schools.
“By failing to invest in quality education, we’re undermining the state’s economic development and our future,” Blouin said in a conference call.
Republican state lawmakers tried last year to cut state income taxes, an effort that was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. They appear likely to try again this year, although perhaps with a narrower effort that would cost the state coffers no more than $120 million a year. Last year’s bill would have reduced personal and corporate taxes gradually as long as state revenue rose by at least $100 million annually. Nixon had said the bill would remove $800 million from the state’s budget.
The Missouri Budget Project study says schools in St. Louis County are underfunded by an average of $512 per student.
Hazelwood, for example, is underfunded by $854 per student, it says.
Ferguson-Florissant R-II is underfunded by $800 per student. Riverview Gardens is underfunded by $455 per student.
In the city, St. Louis Public Schools are underfunded by $317 per student.
Nearly two out of every three of Missouri’s school districts are underfunded by $800 or more per student in the current school year, the study says.
A Missouri House panel last week moved ahead with a plan to fund hundreds of public school districts and state colleges and universities using a two-tiered system. If revenues meet projections of the Legislature, schools could get a $122 million increase on top of their current $3 billion in aid, according to the Associated Press.
If revenues meet Nixon’s more optimistic projections, schools could get an increase of $278 million. Either way, any funding hike would fall short of the increase needed to meet the state’s foundation formula, according to the AP.
The Missouri Budget Project reported revenue of $375,699 in 2012, down 41 percent from 2011, according to the organization’s tax records. Its expenses in 2012 were $442,013, down 13 percent from 2011.