Missouri debates new ways to fund schools with gambling money

Thursday, March 12, 2009 | 9:53 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers are looking to undo some of the provisions of a voter-approved gambling initiative in order to tap into its money for education.

Voters last November passed a measure removing gamblers' loss limits and increasing casino taxes. It was projected to generate $130 million annually for K-12 schools.

But because of the way the state distributes education funds, 115 of the state's 524 school districts were projected to get no additional money next year from the ballot measure.

"We have to undo what the voters did in order to do what they intended to do," Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said Wednesday as lawmakers heard testimony on proposals to redirect the money from the ballot measure.

One plan, by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, would remove a new fund created by the ballot measure and distribute the money to each district using the state's normal funding formula. Mayer's bill also would increase funding to schools based on the number of gifted students in a district.

Mayer's bill calls for roughly $40 million in funding to the formula and $10 million based on the gifted student calculation. Missouri previously earmarked money for educating gifted students but stopped doing so under a 2005 revision to the school funding formula.


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