House Education Appropriations Committee amends funding bill

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 | 9:53 p.m. CST; updated 12:04 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 24, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — The House Education Appropriations Committee approved Tuesday the majority of Gov. Jay Nixon's education funding recommendations with few alterations.

The committee did not discuss the school funding formula or Nixon's in-state tuition freeze agreement; instead they focused on primary and secondary education issues. Several amendments were proposed for addition to the bill, and three were discussed in detail.

Regional Professional Development Centers

Education Appropriations Chair Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, sponsored an amendment reducing the amount of Regional Professional Development Centers from 11 to nine. The centers provide services for teachers, administrators and school districts. The two centers that would be affected are in Joplin and St. Joseph.

Thomson said his amendment did not favor any particular center but would support and improve the original nine programs.

"It's simply the fact that they watered down the funding," Thomson said.

Rep. Martin Rucker, D-St. Joseph, whose district includes a center, said he could not support the amendment.

"We're just trying to get up to par with everyone else in Missouri," Rucker said. "We're just trying to get our piece of the pie like everyone else."

The amendment passed and was added to the bill.

Early childhood development programs

Another amendment, sponsored by Rucker, would transfer $500,000 from a state-level competitive grant program to early childhood development programs at Lincoln University. Rucker said the funds would be a one-time deal to upgrade the program's facilities.

Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, said he did not agree with taking funds from the competitive grant program to give directly to a school.

"We're basically awarding $500,000, and we're going out of the basic nature of the program," Wilson said.

Despite Wilson's protests, the committee passed this amendment and added it to the bill.

Career Ladder and Parents as Teachers programs

The committee voted against allocating money from the Career Ladder program into the Parents as Teachers program.

Most representatives were torn between the two programs but said fully funding both would not be possible.

"I feel like criticizing either of these programs would be like criticizing Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny," said Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie.

Although the Education Appropriations Committee has made the final decision on its bill, the Budget Committee determines the final version of the education appropriation to presented to the House.

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