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Education Funding Joint Committee Holds First Meeting

The legislative committee that's responsible for re-shaping how the state funds public schools met for the first time Tuesday night. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

The joint committee is charged with developing a new formula for distributing state dollars to public schools.

A lawsuit brought against the state by more than 250 school districts claims the current formula isn't fair and funding is inadequate.

The committee chairman, Senator Charlie Shields says the state should get away from the current formula, which focuses on the local rate of taxation and property values in a district.

He says funding should be based on students' needs.

A new formula will certainly cost the state more money.

Governor Matt Blunt promised additional funding for education when he rolled out his budget plan last month.

Representative Maynard Wallace represents several rural counties in Southwest Missouri including Stone and Taney counties.

He's serving on the joint committee on education funding.

He says he's not sure where the state will get extra money for public education.

Shields says his proposal would allow wealthy school districts that choose not to take any state funding to opt out of some state regulations.

And he urged the committee to consider letting school districts get away from a reliance on property taxes'He says lawmakers should consider letting districts use income and sales taxes to help fund education.

Some committee members say they're concerned about letting districts use income and sales tax increases to fund education.

Representative Ed Robb of Columbia is a former economics professor at the University of Missouri.

He says those options would create greater disparities between rich and poor school districts.

Ed Robb has said lawmakers should look at an earnings tax that would apply to anyone who works in Missouri, regardless of where they live.

For example, this would capture tax dollars from people who live in Kansas but work in Kansas City, Missouri.

Besides possible giving districts more taxing options, lawmakers are looking at ways to narrow the funding gap between rural and suburban districts.

Committee chairman Charlie Shields says lawmaker should consider making rural Missouri more accountable when it comes to property values.

Rural legislators like Representative Maynard Wallace of Southwest Missouri say it's unlikely they'll support anything that forces landowners to disclose the exact amount of property transactions.

The committee is expected to complete its work and recommend a new funding formula within one month.