Mo. Digital News
Missouri Digital News
Mo. Digital News
Missouri Digital News
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By Phill Brooks
«RM75»«FC»COL356.PRB - The Passing of an Historic Missouri Legislator
Wayne Goode Source: Goode's obituary at https://www.dignitymemorial.com
This month, Missouri lost a major leader in designing our state's system for funding public schools.
St. Louis County's Wayne Goode, who died October 3, was one of the most eclectic legislators I've covered.
Although a Democratic liberal, he also was a fiscal hawk which he demonstrated as the House Budget chair and then on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
A colleague who informed me of Goode's death recounted Goode's objection to rounding numbers because "decimal points matter."
Although conservatives controlled the legislature for many of his years, Goode's fiscal discipline coupled with his liberalism on other issues helped facilitate building budget compromises.
Goode was a true policy wonk, demonstrated in his greatest legislative accomplishment -- the 1977 major rewrite of how the state distributes education funds to more than 500 school districts.
Essentially, Goode's plan reduced the differences among the school districts in per-student spending, but adjusted for cost and tax assessment differences between the districts.
While a simple concept, the School Foundation Formula proposal required an incomprehensible combination of compromises involving rural districts with low property tax collections, suburban districts with huge numbers of students and urban districts with a higher percentage of public-assistance recipients.
The other factors in the formula include adjustment for differences in cost of living, local taxes for education and, of course, average school attendance.
Those are just a few of a much, much longer list of factors in the funding formula.
Goode's approach was one of the most artful and complicated political compromises I've covered.
"A lot of individual changes have been made to cater to certain situations, but the concept behind it is still good," Goode told one of my reporters in 2002 in a candid acknowledgement of the compromises.
The complexity of those factors makes it nearly impossible to understand by just reading the Foundation Formula law.
In fact, when lawmakers have considered subsequent changes in the formula, they often put off a vote until the Education Department produced a computer-generated breakdown of local district winners and losers of the change.
Unfortunately, that approach effectively reduced some legislative debates on school funding to a food fight between local school districts.
Goode was not just a policy wonk, he was obsessed with trying to get his fellow legislators and we reporters to fully understand his school-funding plan.
He held a long briefing session for reporters to explain, in excruciating detail, the components of his bill.
By way of confession, I was frustrated by the length and minutia of that
But, over the years, my appreciation of Goode's focus on the details grew. It empowered me to better understand the numerous formula changes lawmakers have proposed over the years.
That briefing was a demonstration of Goode's life-long commitment to education.
He was a leader in establishing the St. Louis campus of the University of Missouri, where his statue now resides. He later served on the University of Missouri Board of Curators.
But Goode was not a single-issue legislator.
He also was a committed environmentalist -- one of the few legislators to be a Sierra Club member along with other environmental organizations.
Goode also was driven in pushing for government reform which he demonstrated in sponsoring the 1988 voter-approved constitutional amendment that eliminated the midnight adjournment of annual legislative sessions that had become booze-laden celebrations.
Under-age Jefferson City teens discovered the celebratory atmosphere was so pervasive that they easily could get alcohol that night at tables outside legislative offices without being "carded" to prove their age.
The constitutional change set the last-night adjournment to 6pm.
It also required the legislature to adopt a budget one week before the frenzy of the final week.
Those two provisions are among the biggest steps I've seen in civilizing the legislative process.
With legislative term limits, I worry that Missouri no longer will benefit from the expertise and perspectives which Wayne Goode developed from 42 years in the General Assembly.
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and an emeritus faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.]
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