COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Missouri Senate approved a record-breaking budget of $45.1 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.
In the budget, $214 million was added to fully fund 75% of the state's share of school transportation costs.
House Representative David Tyson Smith (D - Columbia) says, "It's long overdue and this is the first time in 30 years that they have fully funded the student transportation line."
School districts will still be responsible for the other 25% of the costs. The increase will allow schools to pay their bus drivers fair wages.
State Senator Brian Williams (D - St. Louis) said that Missouri has been facing a shortage of school bus drivers, and local school districts can't afford to pay its existing drivers a fair wage.
"By fully funding the state's obligation for school transportation, we can raise wages for drivers while protecting the classroom funding as well," Williams told ABC 17.
The Columbia Missouri National Education Association President Noelle Gilzow said that the cost of transportation is one of the school district's biggest expenses.
"Our transportation costs are really high, because our schools are so spread out. I think any amount of money that can help support transportation is going to alleviate some of the strain on our district's budget," says Gilzow.
The budget now has to pass the conference committee which is scheduled to take place next week.