Missouri House grants initial approval to $26 billion budget

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By SUMMER BALLENTINE

(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., AP) — House members on Tuesday gave initial approval to a package of bills authorizing a more than $26 billion budget for the state of Missouri that increases basic aid for K-12 public schools but fails to fully fund a formula that guides education spending.
The bills, adopted by a voice vote, need a second vote to move to the Senate. They outline spending for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Despite hours of push-and-pull over millions of dollars, representatives left a proposed increase of more than $74 million for public schools as is.
That’s roughly $24 million more of an increase than Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon recommended earlier this year, but it still leaves the state’s foundation formula underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars.
A $482 million increase from this fiscal year is needed to fully fund the formula.
Still, House Speaker John Diehl, a Town and Country Republican, noted that the House allotted more money for basic K-12 school aid compared with the governor.
The House also kept a provision for $12 million more in performance funding for colleges and universities.
Changes on Tuesday included scaling back a bump in funding for the Parents as Teachers program, which provides resources for early childhood development.
House members initially suggested ramping up money for that program by $3.5 million next year.
Instead, they used $1 million of that increase for Teach for America. That program trains college graduates to teach in struggling schools in Missouri and across the country.
Democratic Rep. Genise Montecillo of St. Louis and other Democrats blasted that shift, criticizing Teach for America instructors as untrained. Montecillo said students who need the most help receive “brand new people out of college that have no training whatsoever” with Teach for America.
Funding for Parents as Teachers has been slashed for years, down to about $16 million last fiscal year. Nixon, despite requesting a $1 million increase in that year’s budget, withheld that additional money and did not recommend another hike for next year.
A House committee had recommended $3.5 million more next fiscal year for Parents as Teachers. That’s down to $2.5 million more with the money lost to Teach for America in the current version of the budget proposal.
Democrats also made an unsuccessful push for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility. Republican legislative leaders in the House and Senate have both said that’s a nonstarter, and the proposed amendment to expand Medicaid through the budget failed 115-44.
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Budget bills are HBs 1-13.
Online:
House: http://www.house.mo.gov
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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://www.twitter.com/esballentine.