JEFFERSON CITY — The House Education Appropriations Committee voted Monday to reinstate money earmarked for the statewide Missouri Assessment Program testing regimen after learning that roughly $343 million of federal education aid was at stake.
The committee adopted an amendment to a funding bill last Wednesday that would have taken $5.1 million in state money — dedicated for funding MAP testing only — and put it into a discretionary pot. From that pot, local school boards would have had broad control over how that money was spent.
State education officials said Wednesday they feared that local school board choices would affect Missouri’s compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which determines how much federal aid Missouri receives.
“If this (amendment) results in a situation where school districts are thinking that they have a choice, it could risk the loss of all federal money,” said the state Department of Education’s deputy commissioner, Bert Schulte, at the Monday hearing.
“Our belief is that if even one district doesn’t participate, all federal money is in jeopardy.”
Some representatives said that the amendment did not mirror what their original intent had been.
“I thought that moving money would help the rural school districts,” said Rep. Larry Wilson, R-Flemington. “But I’m afraid that if some districts decide not to test, we could lose more than $300 million, and that would be bad for every district.”
Columbia Reps. Jeff Harris and Chuck Graham, both Democrats, defended their position that the money was only a technicality and would not affect statewide MAP testing.
“There’s still money,” Graham said. “It just depends how it’s delivered.”
They said that their plan to fund MAP testing through Missouri’s Foundation Formula would increase the equity in distributing state aid. But critics said the amount of money being moved — $5.1 million — was too small to make a significant difference.
“I don’t see anything that would create equity,” Schulte said. “The money would be minimal.”
But cutting MAP test money wasn’t the only idea designed to help increase funding for Missouri’s aid-distributing Foundation Formula.
Rep. John Burnett, D-Kansas City, introduced an amendment that would have reduced the state’s school transportation budget by about $81 million, roughly half of the current amount.
That amendment was voted down 15-4.