JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate Appropriations Committee slashed the K-12 education funding recommendations of both the governor and the House by nearly $150 million Thursday.
The Senate now faces a committee recommendation not to fully fund the School Foundation Formula, Missouri's method of distributing funds to local school districts.
Rather than the estimated $250 million in additional funds it would take to continue full funding of the formula, the committee allocated $100 million for distribution.
The decision contradicts what the House, the governor, and leaders of both parties have consistently said they are dedicated to doing this year - providing full funding for K-12 education.
"They put in $100 million but it's going to throw us right into the courts by creating an inequity in our education system," said House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa. "Its going to basically cut in half the investment our state needs to make for the future and that is our children and their education."
The $150 million difference would mean a nearly seven percent decrease in state payments that local school districts would receive compared to those of a fully funded formula.
Although the full Senate hasn't discussed using the state's budget reserves, some Democratic committee members wanted to guarantee full funding with money from that fund. An amendment that would have done so failed along nearly straight party lines.
"When a reasonable alternative is offered for full funding, and the committee still decides not to, it makes me think that this is all a lot of political rhetoric," said Sen. Steve Stoll, D-Festus, who offered the amendment.
"This was the kind of emergency I think they envisioned when the fund was created," he said.
All but one of the Democratic committee members voted against the committee's final decision. Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County, sided with the GOP, saying that because full funding may not be possible, it's time to look at different options.
"How about the governor showing some courage by saying we can do something else," he said when questioned about budget reserve alternatives.
In light of yesterday's decision, the governor's office said he is "hopeful that there can be continued negotiations to ensure that the formula is fully funded" and that "he's not giving up yet."
The Lower Education Budget will be debated in the Senate next week and will then move to conference between the two chambers. Any differences in the House and Senate budgets must be reconciled at that time and some legislators say that may be harder than it seems.
"I don't know what's going on over there, but it looks like they're in the stone age," said Kreider.