Saturday, April 17, 2010

Missouri's Foundation Formula

In 2005, the Missouri state legislature developed a funding mechanism called the “foundation formula” to fund K-12 education in the state. The foundation formula uses a mathematical equation to determine the amount of funding that each school district is set to receive. This equation takes into account several factors for each school district including everything from student enrollment, the number of low-income students, and student attendance. However, the foundation formula is largely based on property, income, and sales taxes for the given district with the central component being taxable property wealth. The foundation formula is designed to provide more equitable funding between school districts across the entire state of Missouri. The formula adopted in 2005 was designed to focuses on student need. The previous formula simply attempted to compensate for the inequities in property tax bases between school districts. The change to the new formula was motivated by a law suit filed by more than 100 school districts across the state of Missouri.
In the midst of a devastating economic recession the Missouri state legislature has been forced to consider cutting a portion of the funding the foundation formula. The initial appropriations bill called for decreased funding to be taken from the least affluent school districts. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon vehemently opposed the appropriations bill arguing the reductions in K-12 funding be spread evenly across all school districts. In addition, Governor Nixon felt it was inappropriate and unconstitutional to reverse an established statute by way of an appropriations bill. Currently, legislation is being drafted in an effort to provide a more fair solution to the budget cuts that will be taken from K-12 education. Nevertheless, any decrease in funding of the foundation formula will result in less money available for K-12 education. Ultimately, this places an extraordinary burden on school districts and schools to find creative ways to maintain operation without a substantial decrease in the education they offer students. This often requires school boards to expand class sizes, reduce curriculum offerings, and freeze teacher salaries. Clearly, these changes directly impact the educational experience of students. In addition, larger class sizes means less one on one attention between teachers and students. This may likely have a disproportionate impact on Missouri’s neediest students. With recent concern about the quality of K-12 education in Missouri and Governor Nixon urging the importance of limiting cuts to K-12 educations; the reality of the harsh economic conditions is beginning to set in. Even budget expenditures that are considered fundamental components of government are on the chopping block.

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