JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri public K-12 schools appear set to get roughly $48 million more in basic aid next fiscal year after state senators voted Tuesday to bump up funding enough to meet targets called for under state law.
Because House members also passed a spending proposal that would meet funding goals, the money for schools likely will be locked into the final budget due to Gov. Eric Greitens by May 5.
The measure passed 19-14. All nine Senate Democrats joined 10 Republicans in voting for the amendment by Farmington Republican Sen. Gary Romine for higher funding.
Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh in a statement praised the move, though she noted lawmakers last year redefined adequate K-12 school funding so the state can spend hundreds of millions of dollars less but still meet the target for fully funding schools.
“Even though the current formula falls short of the previous standard, there was still a very real threat that it would go underfunded again this year,” the Bellefontaine Neighbors Democrat said in a statement. “Fortunately, a bipartisan coalition of Senators came together to put aside partisan politics and put the people of Missouri first.”
Republicans were divided on whether to give the extra money to schools while facing a budget crunch, some raising concerns that doing so will mean cuts elsewhere.
Revenues have been growing this year, but not by as much as needed to fully fund the current budget. Declining corporate tax revenues are part of the reason.
Cassville Republican Sen. David Sater was among those who voted against increasing school funding by that much next fiscal year.
“Our backs are kind of up against the wall,” Sater said during debate on the Senate floor. “I wish that we could fully fund everything that is essential to our citizens, but we can’t.”
Programs that face potential cuts include nursing care and in-home care for people with disabilities, which the Republican governor initially recommended slashing in order to make up for budget holes. He later backtracked.
Another proposal that’s gained traction in the Republican-led Legislature would raise revenues by ending a tax break for low-income seniors and disabled renters. The bill to do so has stalled in the Senate, but supporters could try again to pass it before the legislative session ends May 12.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Brown also warned that the proposed bump in K-12 funding could trigger mandatory spending on early childhood education programs.
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