It look's like you don't have Adobe Flash Player installed. Get it now.
Inside Holland Elementary School Wednesday at the Missouri PTA’s Kids First Town Hall, state legislators agreed the priority for the next budget year will be to avoid cuts to education funding, noting that keeping the status quo as of late has been difficult.
Republican Senator Bob Dixon, who represents a portion of Greene County in southwest Missouri, says the state constitution is clear: First, pay off the public debt; second, fund education. For fiscal budget 2013, passed earlier this year, that included a $5 million increase for public education.
“But that really just keeps us stable. And so looking down the road, I think one of the things we’re going to have to do is to be diligent to make sure that we hold the line on the expansion of additional public programs so that it does not siphon off money from public education, because that really should be our top priority,” Dixon said.
Dixon says based on the current economic climate we’re in and the “demands that have been laid on the table” from the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers are in a tough spot.
“When education and Medicaid take up 75-80 percent of discretionary state spending, I’m going to come down on the side of education.”
Of Missouri’s $24 billion budget, approximately one-third, or $8 billion, accounts for discretionary spending.
Republican Representative Eric Burlison, who serves on the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, says he wants the foundation formula changed to where funding per student in Springfield matches that of students in St. Louis and Kansas City.
“We have the best schools in the state in southwest Missouri, as far as public schools, but we’re sending more money to St. Louis and Kansas City, which are failing school districts – literally they’re unaccredited. So in my opinion, rather than pour more money into environments that are not working, our formula in Missouri should be to reward the schools that are doing the best, and we should be rewarding good performance,” Burlison said.
The panel, which also included Rep. Charlie Norr (D-Springfield), Sen. Jay Wasson (R-Nixa), and officials from Sen. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill’s office, were questioned on parental engagement within the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
For Rep. Burlison, one solution lies in real-time test results for parents in the form of a text message.
“If you text me that my child’s score was, say 70 percent, and that the average score in the class was 85, and then a link to where I can go with homework for my child on how they can improve then that’s, in my opinion, how you engage a parent.”
Lawmakers also offered opinions on tax credit reform. Sen. Dixon touched on the renewal of benevolent tax credits, a bill he pre-filed Monday. Sen. Wasson suggests cutting back on some credits like low-income housing when the budget is tight, contrasting the credit’s effectiveness vs. one like quality jobs.
“We get some construction jobs up front – yes there’s probably some maintenance jobs and things like that on those housing projects – but they don’t return the money on our investment that a quality jobs does; where you have someone who gets a good job, works every day, spends his money back in the economy.”
The Kids First Town Hall is one of seven the Missouri PTA is sponsoring across the state.