State Board of Education asks lawmakers to postpone education funding formula phase-in

The State Board of Education sent a letter to lawmakers this week asking them to postpone the phase-in schedule of the school foundation formula.

The board has identified issues that could arise with the state unable to fully fund the formula, according to a news release.

The school foundation formula determines how much funding each local school district receives based on daily attendance, student population demographics, local tax revenues and other factors. The formula, adopted by lawmakers in 2005, was designed to gradually increase funding for public education over a period of seven years.

“At the time the new formula was adopted, no one envisioned the economic situation we would be facing,” Ronald Lankford, deputy commissioner at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, stated in the release. “It wasn’t designed for less than full funding.”

The law calls for state aid for public education to increase by $120 million each year through fiscal year 2013. The gradual increase was intended to provide a smooth transition for both the state coffers and schools as they made adjustments from the old 1993 formula.

By law, the formula recalculates each year as it marches toward 2013, assuming full funding is available. The first three school years were funded as scheduled, Lankford said, but no new funds have been available since the 2009-10 school year.

By stopping the clock midway through the process, the state Board of Education seeks to halt the mechanics of the formula, which – without new funding – would divert resources to some school districts and away from others in a manner inconsistent with the original intent of the law, the release stated.

The board also recommended that the current formula remain intact – with all its variables and factors – until such time as the general assembly can undertake an extensive study of the formula and consider changes in a comprehensive manner.