School funding

Sunday, June 19, 2005

St. Joseph News-Press

The Missouri chapter of the National Education Association opened a frontal assault on Missouri's new Foundation Formula even before the ink dried on the new legislation.

The state teacher union charged that the formula would redistribute Proposition C money in a way that will hurt 290 of the state's 524 school districts, the Associated Press reported earlier this month. Five Northwest Missouri school districts would suffer under the new formula, according to the union's analysis.

The MNEA's strategy appeared transparent from day one. It had ample opportunity to make its argument during the just-ended legislative session. The union would rather take its chance with the courts.

Backers of the new formula quickly called the analysis "dead wrong" and pointed out that the union failed to account for natural growth in the Proposition C sales tax. Proponents of the formula have repeatedly said no district would lose money under the new formula.

More cynical observers speculated that the union report was to encourage some 250 districts suing the state for a more equitable formula to continue to pursue the case. Whether that was the actual intent, the strategy worked.

The Committee for Educational Equality announced plans to proceed with the case despite lawmakers' approval of a new funding plan this spring.

The new formula ultimately will pump about $800 million a year in new state money to the roughly $2.5 billion the state already distributes to public schools. That's apparently not enough for the teacher's union or some school districts. They are counting on a judge to be more generous with your tax dollars.

We join state Sen. Charlie Shield, the architect of the new formula, in calling on the school districts and the courts to give the new formula a fair chance to work for Missouri. We understand that the union is just in it for the money.

But fishing around for a liberal judge is the wrong way for the state of Missouri to do the business of educating our children.

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