Thursday, June 30, 2005

Blunt Baffles Education Officials With Educational IOU

Need More Reasons to be upset With our Governor? How about this one?

JEFFERSON CITY — Democratic lawmakers today voiced their concern over Gov. Matt Blunt’s education plan, which is being signed by Gov. Matt Blunt today. House Assistant Minority Leader Paul LeVota (D-Independence) has concerns regarding the Governor’s plan because it is based on unspecified funding that fails to address the immediate challenge of keeping the schools out of court. “Gov. Blunt promised the people of Missouri that he would fix our education system,” said LeVota. “Instead he has proposed an unfunded solution that won’t help any current students older than the fourth grade. Worse still, his plan leaves control of our schools at high risk of being taken over by the courts.”LeVota said it is necessary to let the people of Missouri know that this bill is not a solution, but yet another challenge in providing all Missouri children with a quality education. The plan calls for over $800 million to be spread out over the next seven years, yet the Governor has failed to produce any details as to how the state will come up with that much new revenue. LeVota compared the plan to John Ashcroft’s failed 15-year highway plan from the 1990’s. “The taxpayers of this state have learned to be wary of promises that pledge the money will be there,” said LeVota. “They trusted the 15-year highway plan would fix our roads. Now Missouri has the third worst roads in the country. Missourians are now asking, ‘Are we going to see the third worst schools in the country, too?’”The seven-year phase-in would mean schools would not see their fair share of state funding for another seven years. That means that last year’s fifth graders will have graduated high school before their schools see the funding they deserve. Some education proponents have worried that this will hurt the state’s chances of surviving a pending lawsuit brought by over 100 of the state’s school districts. The suit contends that the state has failed to provide “adequate and equitable” support for all Missouri schools. If the courts rule that the state has failed its constitutional obligation to Missouri schools, then they could take control of how the state spends its education dollars. “When the session began, the Governor told Missourians that education reform was immediately needed in order to protect our schools from the courts,” said LeVota. “But now it has become obvious that his plan has convinced few if any of the school districts to drop their case, and has therefore failed to achieve his number one goal. Missouri parents, teachers and students are still stuck with an under-funded education system, and have seen no relief from the courts. Despite the hype, the Governor’s mission is still unaccomplished.” LeVota also noted that some school districts in the state end up losers under this plan. “When you compare the two formulas, districts in the Kansas City, St. Louis and northern Missouri regions end up with less money by the time the new formula is implemented,” said LeVota. “In the first year of this new formula the education of children in these areas will be valued less than they were in the year before.”

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