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State reps say K-12 education should prepare for budget restrictions or cuts


Elementary and secondary education has not yet been affected by the state budget restrictions Gov. Mike Parson announced Wednesday as revenue falls because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State Reps. Chuck Basye (R-Rocheport) and Kip Kendrick (D-Columbia) said Thursday that the long-term outlook for K-12 funding is difficult to gauge. 

During his daily COVID-19 online news conference Wednesday, Parson said coronavirus has seriously affected state revenue and that the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development will face restrictions.  

“It just remains to be seen,” said Basye, who serves on the state House's Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. “I really don't know what the outlook is going to be but hopefully it won’t be as devastating as what happened to higher education yesterday.”

Most of the restrictions Parson unveiled Wednesday will come from spending on higher education. Budget documents show the state will withhold more than $77 million from the department, $61 million of which was dedicated to four-year colleges. Another $11 million will come from spending for community colleges.

Kendrick, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said for now the withholding hasn't hit K-12 education but there are no guarantees.

“It's so difficult to forecast what revenue will look like,” Kendrick said. “That being said, I can say with confidence that Missouri's general revenue will be down significantly.”

Brent Ghan, the Missouri School Boards' Association’s deputy executive, said schools and districts are concerned about the future and what it may hold, but they are glad there have been no withholdings at this point in this fiscal year. 

“It's really posing a lot of challenges for school districts in terms of budget planning for the next year,” Ghan said.  “But we're certainly telling our districts that the state revenue outlook for the next fiscal year is not particularly positive right now and to be very conservative in planning for their budgets for the next fiscal year.”

Kendrick said he has advised Columbia Public Schools to brace for potential cuts moving forward into fiscal year 2021, which will begin July 1. Legislators have yet to pass the budget for the coming fiscal year. 

“Hopefully we can avoid those cuts,” Kendrick said. “But I think it's prudent for districts around the state to start to plan out what potential cuts of state funding may look like, and how they may navigate that as there's a lot of unknowns moving forward as school districts.”

Basye said it’s not just school boards and school administrators who will be affected -- it’s everyone in the education system, including students and families. 

“It’s also people working the cafeterias,” Basye said. “The custodial people, everybody that works for education in our system, their educational system is being affected by this. And on top of that, the kids and the parents as well.” 

Kendrick said a budget priority for the coming fiscal year is adequately funding K-12 education. 

“Many would likely look for other places to cut,” Kendrick said. “As much as I'd like to think and behave as if ... your K-12 education is nondiscretionary, cuts are needed. There's not a whole lot of places to go anymore. So hopefully we can do everything we can to not cut education at this time.”

Basye said the goal is to do what is in the best interest of children.  

Ghan said it's difficult right now to plan and that many districts are in a wait-and-see position. 

Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold) announced the return to the Capitol next Wednesday, April 8.

The release stated, “Upon the Governor’s new recommended changes and passage by the Senate next Wednesday, the House plans to immediately convene to debate, and vote on the supplemental budget bill, authorizing millions of dollars to battle the coronavirus.”

The release also stated that since the supplemental budget was passed three weeks ago, “it is imperative that the legislature move without delay to keep Missouri’s government operating during this crisis and provide the needed resources to those on the front lines of this pandemic.”

Article Topic Follows: Missouri

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Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.


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