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Audit Finds Inequities in Education Funding

April 16, 2003
By: Missy Shelton
State Capital Bureau

Information in a new audit suggests the state of Missouri isn't doing a good job distributing education funding equally to school districts.

Missy Shelton reports.

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The state of Missouri uses a mechanism known as the foundation formula to calculate how much tate aid school districts receive.

The formula is designed to even out funding between poor and wealthy districts.

State Auditor Claire McCaskill says it's important to understand the history of school funding in Missouri to understand the problems the state faces now.

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Some lawmakers would also give the existing system an F.

Most of the school districts represented by Southwest Missouri Republican Jay Wasson are near the bottom in per pupil expenditures.

He says the rural school districts he represents are getting short-changed while urban districts get more than their fair share of funding.

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The most dramatic finding in the audit shows that there's a large gap between the school district that spends the most on students and the one that spends the least.

McCaskill says the existing formula has created greater inequities in education funding.

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It's difficult to find anyone who says the formula is perfect and doesn't need to be changed.

But Democratic Senator Steve Stoll says the audit may be a little too harsh in its critique of the formula.

He says it has led to some progress in education funding.

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Stoll says he supports revising the formula.

But he points out that money isn't everything when it comes to success.

He gives an example from his legislative district.

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For the last four years, several lawmakers have proposed changing the way the state distributes money to school districts.

None of those bills have enjoyed widespread support despite the general consensus that it's time to create a new funding distribution mechanism.

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