Budget frustrates CPS officials

Sami Pathan

Though Gov. Jay Nixon publicized “record funding” in the state education budget in his Jan. 16 State of the State address, district officials aren’t impressed.
Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher called the governor’s statement “a misnomer,” saying there may have been political undertones.

Nixon spoke about a $5 million increase to the foundation formula, the primary method of dispersing funds to school districts. To Belcher the increase isn’t enough for a district like CPS.
“I don’t have any expectation that we will get help from the state legislature,” Belcher said. “They’ve shown a reluctance to look at any revenue enhancement, and with about a [$300 million] shortage of necessary revenue to have the same expenditures as they did this year, we’re all going to be taking some major budget cuts, and we know that.”
Board of Education President Tom Rose said CPS has saved significantly over the past three years to handle the $9,000 cost of educating a student for a year. Even if the state doesn’t meet its funding formula, CPS will be able to handle costs for at least two years.
“We’ve set ourselves up so we can work even if the state doesn’t give us sufficient funding for a couple years,” Rose said.
With a $300 million deficit in the funding formula and a total budget proposal of more than $3 billion, the $5 million will have little impact on school districts. Although Belcher acknowledges the benefit of additional funding, CPS’ growth — 170 students every year — forces it to spend less on each student and cut the number of faculty it can support without a significant funding bonus.
“We have lost over 1,500 teaching jobs in Missouri in the last year alone,” Belcher said. “Those are real jobs too. Just because they’re not from the private sector doesn’t mean that they’re not important in the economy. And with every job lost, you lose part of the  quality that job provides.”
By Sami Pathan