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f the state expects public schools to improve, it will take more money. That was the finding of the Missouri education roundtable, an organization composed of groups like Missouri state teachers association, the Missouri national education association and the Missouri congress of parents and teachers. Brent Ghan whose group the Missouri school boards association was part of the roundtable says higher student achievement comes with a price tag.
With last week's budget cuts from governor Holden, lawmakers are likely to find it difficult to maintain the current level of funding for elementary and secondary education much less increase revenue to schools. Education is the only area governor Holden did not include in the budget cuts. Ghan says the roundtable made its recommendations knowing it's unlikely lawmakers will be able to act in the upcoming session.
One of the suggestions from the roundtable dealt with the general assembly's ability to raise taxes. Ghan says the Missouri constitution prevents lawmakers from raising enough taxes to meet the increasing needs of schools.
In addition to changing that constitutional provision, the roundtable hopes to change the way bond issues are passed in Missouri. Right now, it takes a super majority or two-thirds to pass a bond issue for schools in Missouri. The Missouri school boards association is circulating an initiative petition and hopes to get the issue on the ballot by November of next year. The ballot issue would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would allow bond issues to pass with a simple majority or more than fifty percent of the vote. Opposition has come from those who don't want to see it made easier to pass a property tax increase. Lawmakers have responded to concerns about high property taxes in several ways, including proposing legislation that would allow public schools to benefit from other taxes. Ghan says he supports those discussions about retooling the way schools are funded in Missouri.
Some of the other recommendations from the roundtable include increased teacher salaries, raising a school district's bond capacity from its current level of 15 percent and approving state funding for school facilities.