There has been much talk this year about what school districts, particularly in this rural corner of the state, can expect to see in the way of state funding cuts. As of May 6, the speculation ended. The Missouri House of Representatives and Senate finalized their operating bills for fiscal 2012, including K-12 education funding.
Numbers were available for the first time at Wednesday’s Hannibal Board of Education meeting, where a breakdown of finalized state education funding was included in a handy-dandy media packet. Here are the new numbers and how they compare to fiscal 2011 appropriations:
Foundation Formula: $3.004 billion (FY11: $3.004 billion)
Small Schools Program: $15 million (FY11: $15 billion)
Transportation: $107.798 million (FY11: $152.798 billion)
Early Childhood & Special Education: $144.66 million (FY11: $135.21 million)
Career Ladder: 0 (FY11: $37.467 million)
Career Education: $50.069 million (FY11: $50.069 million)
Parents as Teachers: $16.2 million (FY11: $13 million)
School District Trust Fund: $760.6 million (FY11: $760.6 million)
Virtual Education: $390,000 (FY11: $715,000)
These numbers echo what school districts have been told for several months: that foundation formula funding — those dollars distributed through the mechanism that, when fully funded, is designed to equalize education funding throughout the state — will be held flat. That’s good news for districts that were anticipating big cuts and had been advised to use their last shot of stimulus funding to make up the difference; now they’ll use that money as a surplus, essentially.
However, it’s not such good news for education fund watchers who had hoped the legislature would do something to address the formula’s inadequate funding. It’s been widely said that if the formula is not addressed within the next year, school districts will face a “funding cliff,” and rural districts will take it on the chin.
Elsewhere in the funding breakdown, the most noticeable cut is the elimination of Career Ladder funding, which provides financial incentives for teachers to tutor or perform other qualifying activities after school. Most of the districts in Northeast Missouri saw this coming. I’ve heard concerns from some, particularly in Lewis County C-1, that it will cut down on tutoring opportunities and potentially jeopardize the students who depend on those. It’s not clear how schools around the region will address that change.
Transportation funding also took a $45 million hit. That’s bad news for rural districts that have extensive transportation needs.
On the bright side, early childhood and special education funding jumped by more than $9 million, which seems to make sense given the increasingly high profile of special education. And Parents as Teachers got more than $3 million back of the massive cuts it previously had taken. Hannibal’s PAT director had noted earlier in the year, when talk of the new early childhood center first began to circulate, that it might all be for naught if the state zeroed out PAT, so this is very good news for them, although she said at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting that the program would still love to get the rest of their funding back. (Who wouldn’t?)
So that’s the final word from Jefferson City. Time will tell, of course, how each district puts that money to use — and how each district faces next year’s very real threat of even greater cuts.