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House Approves Education Funding Formula

After nearly 10 and a half hours of debate, the Missouri House approved its version of the education funding formula on a near party line vote. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

As debate on the education funding formula droned on into its fifth hour, lawmakers got a little testy, as evidenced by this exchange between Democrat Jeff Harris and the bill handler Brian Baker. Harris speaks first.

And when the debate turned to an amendment from a Greene County Representative that would ban gay-straight alliances and clubs from public schools, Democratic Representative Connie LaJoyce Johnson voiced concerns that lawmakers had lost focus.

Debate ended around 3:20 Wednesday morning, after almost 10 and a half hours of debate.

The proposed new funding formula is based on student need, not on property values in school districts.

Most lawmakers say that's a good idea.

But other specific aspects of the formula are more controversial.

Representatives debated various issues that divided the House down urban/rural lines, rather than party lines.

One of the more contentious issues has been the cost of labor adjustment, which takes into consideration the higher cost of labor in urban and suburban areas.

The House supported the urban/suburban position.

Rural lawmakers had pushed for a smaller adjustment than what the House approved.

Early in the evening, Governor Matt Blunt made his first appearance in the House chamber this session to lobby for a bill.

Lawmakers are facing a time crunch. The legislative session ends at 6 PM Friday. Governor Matt Blunt has threatened to call lawmakers into special session if they don't approve a funding formula before the end of session.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit by more than 250 school districts is pending in the courts...The suit claims that school funding is insufficient and is not distributed fairly.

Democratic Floor Leader Jeff Harris questioned the bill handler Brian Baker about spending so much time on a bill that he says won't stop the lawsuit. Harris speaks first.

Brian Baker told Harris no one, not even judges can compare the old funding formula to the new one that's being proposed.

Lawmakers will have to meet in conference committee to work out a compromise between the House and Senate.