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Commissioner Kent King Presents Education Budget Request to House Panel

January 30, 2006
By: David Castillo
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's education commissioner, Kent King, told a legislative panel Hurricane Katrina added about 2,000 students to Missouri's classrooms this year.

King noted that the federal government is planning to reimburse the state at approximately $2,500 per student.

"We shot for $7,000 per student, but we didn't get that in the appropriations," King said.

The commissioner said that there are currently 915,000 students enrolled in schools.

"There was an increase of 4,000 students in pre-k (pre-kindergarten) programs and an overall decrease of about 6,000 students for grades pre-k through 12," King said.

He also testified about Missouri public school graduation rates, which are at about 86 percent. King said that the number is dropping and that it might be due to a lack of funds, but he is not completely sure why the drop is happening.

King also testified to the Education Appropriations Committee about Gov. Matt Blunt's education budget request.

"This is the first time that the education budget has exceeded $5 billion," King said.

If approved, elementary and secondary schools will receive 96 percent of the governor's recommendation for education. The remaining four percent would be distributed among state schools and the state Education Department.

Not mentioned during King's presentation was the lawsuit filed by nearly half of Missouri's school districts that charges the state is not providing enough money for public schools.

The lawsuit claims that the formula the state uses to disburse state aid is inequitable.

In the meantime, a proposal to block the courts from changing state appropriations approved by the legislature is scheduled for a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.