The Missouri State Senate recently held multiple sessions to discuss ways to save the state money, including a session on education spending. The workgroups, all under the name of “rebooting government”, accepted suggestions online from Missourians and read some of the submissions openly in the committee meetings. The members of the education committee were Senator David Pearce, chairman, Senator Gary Nodler, Senator Rita Heard Days and Senator Yvonne Wilson.
One of the suggestions that is drawing much attention is a proposal to merge the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Testimony in the committee hearing said that the merger could save $1 million. Senator Pearce reported that the committee supports the merger idea. The proposal is likely to save Missouri money, but will also align the government structure with the P-20 council, created in 2006, to focus on student learning from childhood through graduate school.
Other cost saving suggestions that the committee heard was an increase in virtual schools, implementing merit pay systems statewide, cutting money from the Regional Professional Development Centers and only allowing schools to accept 100% of the funding formula calculation. That proposal, according to Senate staff, would save the state $16.5 million.
The “reboot” meetings come on the same day that the Missouri House of Representatives voted to freeze spending on K-12 education. While education spending would remain the same from last year, the vote removes a $105 million increase that was scheduled to go into the phase in of the state’s funding formula. The measure came in the form of an amendment to the state’s budget bill, currently being debated by the full House. Amendment sponsor, Representative Maynard Wallace, told his colleagues that he didn’t want the state to promise schools money, then not give it to them. The state’s deteriorating budget situation has already caused a $43 million reduction in school funding for the remainder of the year.
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