Districts plan to intervene in funding case

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Dozens of school districts with a distinct point of view plan to intervene in a lawsuit challenging Missouri's method of funding elementary and secondary education.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month by 243 of Missouri's 524 school districts, claims the state spends too little on public schools and does not distribute the money fairly.

But 70 other districts, uneasy with the lawsuit's position on fairness, will seek within the next few weeks to be added to the lawsuit as a third party.

The so-called Coalition to Fund Excellent Schools is made up mostly of districts whose state aid is still calculated under the funding formula that was in place before the current formula was adopted in 1993. Such districts are said to be "held harmless" against the reductions in state aid they would incur if they were funded under the new formula.

The districts agree that Missouri should spend more on public education, said David Glaser, chairman of the coalition and chief financial officer of the Rockwood School District in Eureka.

However, he added, "You have to be careful in terms of saying it's going to be fair and equitable if every child in the state is going to be given the same amount of money."

We're certainly in favor of every child having equal opportunities, but that doesn't necessarily mean the same amount of money."

Glaser said the coalition wants to ensure that cost-of-living differences are taken into account if the funding formula is rewritten.

"We certainly understand there are areas in the state that are not as wealthy. But we're going to ask the Legislature to consider they support their schools on the same percentage basis of wealth that we support ours," Glaser said.

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