While the future of the formula is not completely clear, one thing is certain: Any changes will come with a price, both political and financial.
“You must have the will to make the changes, and that seems to require the highest level of motivation of any legislative effort I’ve seen in the last 15 years,” Fajen said. “There’s a bunch of stuff that would be objectionable. You almost have to have litigation involved, you almost need to have a court hanging over your head.”
At the very least, any formula modifications will not make things easier or less complicated, and that’s how it should be, Goode said. He remembers the days of simple flat rates and subsidies, but he doesn’t remember them fondly.
“Formulas are complicated, and every time we redo it, it gets more complicated,” he said. “That’s because there’s more factors and more issues and more concerns, and the way you deal with those concerns is by putting them in the formula.”
Ultimately, Missouri’s otherwise mechanical formula still rests in the hands of people — people who are imperfect. And, perhaps, for that reason, the foundation formula will always be subject to debate. But one thing is certain, Fajen said: This is still all about people, and it always will be.
“It’s just not very thought about,” Fajen said. “But it’s amazing when it dawns on you that some human actually does all this.”
David Yunker of the Missourian contributed to this report.