The Columbia Board of Education met Friday with state legislators to discuss its priorities for the upcoming legislative session: No. 1 is funding of the state’s foundation formula that pays for schools.
The session begins Jan. 5, and district officials wanted to ensure representatives from Boone County are aware of the issues district officials said they feel strongly about.
Superintendent Phyllis Chase said the state was $600 million short of fully funding the foundation formula during the past year.
This formula, enacted in 1993, is supposed to minimize disparities between high and low income districts. It is dependent on a variety of factors including local property tax, the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches and school attendance.
However, the district is still unsatisfied with the amount of money it has received. The state has failed to fund the district, and in turn, the district cannot fund all of its programs.
Chase said: “If the foundation formula were fully funded, we wouldn’t be at the table here today talking about this issue. It wouldn’t be of high priority. If it were funded we would be pleased.”
Republican Ed Robb, the newly elected 24th district state representative, was among those at Friday’s meeting.
“We have to change the formula. Let’s start over,” Robb said.
One of Robb’s campaign promises was to eliminate the current formula, and he has proposed a system more dependent on income taxes.
District officials also voiced their concerns with the state construction match program. Representatives from the Columbia Area Career Center presented plans for a $9 million construction project. Half of this bill is covered by bond issue funds that were approved by voters in April. Chase said she wants to ensure legislators follow through with their end.
“The way the statutes are written, the state is responsible for the other half. I need the legislators to fulfill the state’s half,” Chase said.
Chase asked that legislators push for a simple majority to be acceptable in passing school bonds. Currently, in Columbia, these bonds require a four-sevenths majority.
Democratic Rep. Jeff Harris has sponsored bills with this same goal in mind but feels it is an unrealistic goal.
“I wouldn’t be optimistic that it would have any chance at this point,” Harris said.
The group also discussed funding of federal legislation in regards to the Individuals with Disabilities Act.
Chase said 40 percent of the costs associated with educating students with disabilities should be paid for with federal funds. Currently, the federal share is 19 percent.
Chase said she was pleased with the discussion in today’s session.
“I think this was an opportunity for elected officials to share priorities and concerns as we work towards resolutions,” Chase said. “I was pleased to help orchestrate this opportunity.”