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Suburban & rural Senators battle over K-12 funding in Mo.

Mo. Capitol
(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)
Mo. Capitol

The Missouri Senate is wrestling with legislation that would tweak the state’s public school funding formula.

The bill is pitting rural and suburban senators against each other. David Pearce(R, Warrensburg) chairs the Senate Education Committee and represents part of rural west central Missouri.  He sponsors the bill that would more evenly spread K-12 funding by siphoning it off from richer suburban districts, primarily those near St. Louis.

“There (are) 522 school districts (in Missouri), and when you’re trying to come up with state policy you just can’t look at your own line item from back home," Pearce said.  "You have to see what’s good for the entire state, and that’s what this bill is all about.”

Pearce expressed optimism that the economy will recover in the next year or two and will provide more revenue for K-12 schools.

The bill, meanwhile, is facing opposition from St. Louis-area Senators from both political parties.  Republican Eric Schmittof Glendale says 90 percent of the funding for public schools in his district comes from local taxpayers.

“In the bill that’s being proposed right now, this shifts $60 million away from districts that haven’t gotten any new money from the foundation formula…I don’t think that’s an equitable approach to deal with this issue," Schmitt said.  "I think we ought to look at the entire formula, take a look at everything:  the cost of living difference between St. Louis and other parts of the state.”

The bill was debated for nearly two hours Wednesday before being laid aside. 

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.