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  • Missouri
  • Lisa Lambert Snodgrass (bio)

In April 2020, Missouri Governor Mike Parson's proposed FY 2021 budget was optimistic, calling for an increase of one percent of in-state funding for both P-12 and Higher Education over the full finding of the FY 2020 budget. This optimism was not to last however. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public and higher education bore the brunt of the state's reactive FY 2020 budget cuts and FY 2021 budget allocations.

funding priorities for p-12 and/or higher education

Education and workforce development continued to be two top priorities for the Parson administration. In the proposed April 2020 version of the FY 2021 budget, P-12 education would have received a small increase in spending and higher education would remain consistent with last year's allocations. More specifically, for P-12 education, the A+ Scholarship Program, a program that helps fund public community college, trade schools and/or private trade schools attendance for graduates from A+ designated schools, would have received $4.8 million increase in allocations. In response to criticism of the FY 2020 budget and its failure to adequately address transportation costs, Parson prioritized $10 million increase specifically to raise the level of allocations for public school transportation1. However, by the end of May 2020, in response to decreased revenue and increased spending due to COVID-19, these priorities were sidelined and the remainder of the FY 2020 and FY 2021 budgets decreased drastically.

changes to the funding formula for p-12 and/or higher education

While there were no changes to the foundation funding formula for P-12 or higher education, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Parsons made drastic cuts to the FY 2020 budget. Of the $209 million in cuts, $131 million came from P-12 education, a nearly 39 percent decrease, and $41 from higher education. For the FY 2021 budget, Parson cut an additional $123 million or 3.5 percent from benchmark aid for elementary and secondary schools, with an additional 12.7 percent cut to transportation and busing. The higher education allocations were cut by more than 12 percent.2 [End Page 307]

In July, 2020 Missouri was awarded $55 million from the CARES Act to be allocated to K-12 education expenses.3 According to Margie Vandeven, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner some of the funds would be directed as follows:

  • • $10 million for reimbursement for expenses related to WiFi network connectivity and expansions for public and charter school districts

  • • $10 million on development of an assessment tool to determine the impact of COVID-19 school closures on student learning

  • • $7.5 million for meal delivery transportation cost reimbursement

  • • $7.5 million for the cost of PPE and cleaning supplies for schools and buses

An additional $20 million from the state's emergency education relief fund and the DESE relief fund was dedicated to offset costs associated with purchasing of technology for home-based schooling.5 Individual school districts had to apply to receive any of the emergency funds or CARES Act funds.

In July 2020, Parson's top priority for both K-12 and higher education was the safe opening of schools in the fall. In a controversial radio speech, Parson cited equity and access issues and students' mental and physical well-being as primary drivers for the call for schools to reopen.4 As noted above, $7.5 million of the CARES Act funds were allocated to off-set the costs of PPE and cleaning supplies for those schools that chose to open in August 2020.

pressing state issues

Equity in access to WiFi and appropriate technology, especially for rural schools districts has been a known issue for several years, but has been underscored by the pandemic.5 For example, one rural district that serves primarily low-income families with most qualifying for the free and reduced lunch program, discovered 30 percent of the students have no access to WiFi and 50 percent do not have access to the technology to access online learning programs. While most Missouri suburban and urban districts were able to fully implement online learning, funding challenges for transportation...