State lawmakers return from their spring break today, and the Missouri House is preparing to consider a proposed state budget that partly ties education funding to the strength of the economy.
House Majority Leader John Diehl says debate will begin this week on the budget for the next fiscal year. The plan endorsed by the House Budget Committee would add $122 million to the state's $3 billion in basic school funding. But if state revenues meet more optimistic projections, then it would provide a $278 million increase for schools.
A state funding shortfall is hitting some Missouri school districts harder than others.
A report released Wednesday by the Missouri Budget Project says the state is underfunding public school districts by $656 million this year. That's based on the amount called for under a 2005 law that re-wrote Missouri's school funding formula.
The report says the shortfall amounts to about $700 per student on a statewide basis. But those figures vary widely by district.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says he is working toward full funding for public schools by the time he leaves office in January 2017.
This year's budget includes has about $3 billion for elementary and secondary schools. But that's roughly $600 million less than what is called for under Missouri's school funding formula for this year.
The amounts prescribed by the formula change yearly. If schools receive all of the funds in this year's budget, Missouri would have to spend an additional $560 million to meet next year's target.
A new manufacturing consortium between nine community colleges around the state is focused on improving the education for manufacturing students. The $15 million program, in conjunction with MOManufacturingWINs, provides specialized training. Dana Kelchner, State Fair Community College spokeswoman, said the program might change, but it’s to guide the students toward certification.
Officials of Missouri colleges and universities will gather next week for a day-long conference on issues including finances and academic quality.
The state Coordinating Board for Higher Educations is sponsoring the June 7 meeting in Columbia. It's expected to draw about 100 top administrators and members of governing boards, along with leaders of national organizations.