JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Just like Americans are paying more for gas and eggs at the grocery store, Missouri schools are also feeling the effects of inflation.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is unveiling its proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and it includes an added $135 million to pay for an increase in the transportation and foundation formulas. There’s also a request for the state to pay for programs that were originally funded by federal COVID relief dollars, since that money will soon be gone.
“Cost for operating transportation across districts and across the state has significantly been impacted by fuel costs, staffing costs and the cost of equipment,” DESE Deputy Commissioner Kari Monsees said. “We are asking for additional federal capacity—an increase of about $37 million for the food service programs.”
Not only is inflation taking a toll on your wallet, but it’s also impacting education. Besides the increase in food and fuel, DESE said the foundation formula, how much the state provides in aid to schools, also needs a boost of about $120 million next fiscal year.
“The current formula was written in 2005 and there have been a variety of modifications over time but none that would qualify as a significant rewrite of the entire formula,” Monsees said.
According to the department, the drop in the weighted average daily attendance and a change in the thresholds for student populations are factors currently impacting the cost of the foundation formula.
In DESE’s budget request, the department calculated a new state adequacy target, which is the multiplier formula that funds schools. Monsees said that target hasn’t been adjusted in five years. It’s based on attendance and how many students qualify for free and reduced lunch.
“Those funds, at least 75% of them, have to go into the teachers’ fund to fund teachers’ salaries, certified salaries in a school district,” Monsees said. “So, to the extent that, that gets increased, that would supplement what schools have available for teacher salaries.”
The new state adequacy target for fiscal year 2024, according to the department, is $6,760. That’s up from $6,375 from 2020 through this current year. Next year, the target request is $7,145, which would be an increase of $300 million.
With the billions of COVID relief dollars expected to run out in the coming year, DESE wants to continue the initiatives that were funded by federal money, which include $78 in childcare subsidy rates for low-income families.
“It’s an important part of our state infrastructure, and we want to try and make sure we can have providers throughout the state to help serve families so that those that want to work have the flexibility to get out there and work,” Monsees said.
Monsees said the department spent 10% of the COVID relief dollars sent to schools for state-level initiatives like teacher training and literacy resources. In the request to the governor, DESE is asking for $5.115 million in literacy coaches and $3.6 million in math coaches.
“One of the big investments we made was putting additional funds into teacher training and teacher training-related activity and literacy for school districts, and we want to keep that momentum going,” Monsees said. “We’re in the process of training approximately 15,000 teachers this year.”
While there is a request to increase funding for more than a dozen items, the department said this budget proposal is less than the current year’s because there are fewer COVID relief funds to allocate. In total, new decision items make up roughly $281 million of the proposal.
DESE will meet with the governor’s office after Oct. 1 to talk about the request, and then Parson’s will give his proposal to lawmakers in January during his annual State of the State address.
Monsees said the State Board of Education does plan to ask lawmakers to adjust the foundation formula in the upcoming legislative session that starts in January.