A Missouri bill changing the state's funding formula for K-12 public schools has now become law, but the effect it will have on area school districts is unclear at this time.

A Missouri bill changing the state's funding formula for K-12 public schools has now become law, but the effect it will have on area school districts is unclear at this time.
The legislation, SBs 586 and 651, became law earlier this month after the Missouri Legislature overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the measures.
Nixon announced the veto of the bill at a Ferguson school on May 4, but Missouri senators voted 25-7 to override his veto later that day. Republican Sen. Dan Brown voted in favor of undoing the veto.
On May 5, the Missouri House of Representatives voted 113-43 to override Nixon’s veto. All five representatives who have districts in Phelps County — Republican Reps. Jason Chipman, Keith Frederick, Tom Hurst and Robert Ross — voted to override the veto.
While those opposed to the law say it allows the state to spend less money on K-12 public education, supporters say that by doing so, the foundation formula can be fully funded — something that has never been done before.
Sarah Potter, communications coordinator for DESE, said, “The legislation will put full funding of the formula within reach in the next couple of years. Under SB 586, the underfunding in the formula call will be reduced from about $450 million to about $52 million short. That makes it a more realistic number for the budget to reach in the future,”
However, if the state is paying less, it could mean that local residents may pay more in property taxes to support their schools — a trend already being seen across Missouri.
Resident Don Sparlin said for the most part, “I expect to get what I pay for — some waste to be expected due to the laws of thermodynamics.”
The state funding formula takes into account weighted average daily attendance, state adequacy target, a dollar value modifier and local effort.
The new law reinstates a 5 percent cap on increases in current operating expenses when calculating the state adequacy target, which lawmakers use when setting goals for how much money schools should receive.
The 5 percent cap was initially included in the foundation formula initially passed by Missouri legislators in 2005, but in 2009, state lawmakers repealed that 5 percent cap, hoping to receive more money from the lottery and gambling. Those additional funds never materialized.
Basic aid for K-12 schools in the fiscal year starting July 1 would have fallen more than $400 million short of funding goals in the spending plan that lawmakers passed this year, even with a proposed $71 million increase.
However, funding will only be about $54 million short under the measure that lawmakers have enacted after overriding Nixon’s veto.
Before Nixon announced his veto, his office released projections from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that show the amount districts would receive annually under full funding of the current formula compared to the amount they would receive under SB 586, the new law.
The St. James R-1 School District would receive about $9,779,985 if the current foundation formula were fully funded, compared to $8,694,691, under the new law, a decrease of $1,085,294.
St. James Schools Superintendent Dr. Joy Tucker, who called herself a conservative budgeter, said money from the state’s foundation formula is money she hopes the district receives but doesn’t always count on when formulating the district’s budget.
Tucker said this year, the district has received about $8 million combined from the foundation formula and Classroom Trust Fund.
If that drop in funding were to occur, according those projections, Tucker said school district officials would first look at cuts to programs and not cuts to personnel.
“St. James is very devoted to keeping staff,” she said.
Those same projections from DESE state that the Rolla 31 School District could lose more than $2 million under the new law, if the foundation formula is fully funded.
Rolla would receive $17,587,949 under the current fully funded formula, compared to $15,296,094 under SB 586. That’s a decline of $2,291,855.
Rolla Schools Superintendent Dr. Aaron Zalis said that the Missouri Association of School Administrators has taken no position on the new law.
Zalis said a new foundation formula has not been created; the 5 percent cap is just being brought back.
He noted that the foundation formula is meant to be fully funded, but yet there remains a gap between what is currently being funded and the goal set.
“The only thing certain for us is to plan for uncertainty,” Zalis said.
Zalis said when he first started with the Rolla School District, a majority of funding for the schools came from the foundation formula, but now, local funding, such as local property taxes, make up a majority of funding for Rolla Public Schools.
The Newburg R-2 School District would lose about $278,459, the difference between $2,505,643 the district would receive if fully funded currently versus $2,227,185 if fully funded under the new measure.
According to the DESE projections, the Phelps County R-3 School District in Edgar Springs would receive $1,361,761 under the current law if fully funded, whereas under the new law, the district would get $1,205,350. That equates to $156,412 less in funds if the foundation formula is fully funded.
"These projections demonstrate in stark detail the negative impact this bill would have on school districts across the state," said Nixon. “This cheapening of the foundation formula results in a broken promise to our local schools and the students they educate and cannot receive my approval.”
Bill sponsor, Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, said the governor doesn’t understand the potential this bill has to not only protect the foundation formula but potentially fully fund it in just a couple of years.
“The money the governor says the schools will lose out on doesn’t exist today, and won’t exist anytime in the future,” said Wasson. “By saving the formula, we will be able to allow it to increase more proportionately to the growth rate in Missouri instead of setting unrealistic expectations.”
“Because Missouri never got the gambling money that was projected, the state now faces the more than a half a billion dollar gap in school funding,” said Senate Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin. “This measure, with bipartisan support, will make full funding of the foundation formula an attainable goal in the next couple of years.”