House GOP gets to debate education plan

Friday, March 15, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- What began as a House debate on whether to expand horse-race betting turned into a platform Thursday for a Republican education plan.

House Republicans have complained for weeks that the chamber's Democratic leadership was blocking debate on the GOP proposal.

But House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, allowed an amendment to the horse wagering bill to be debated Thursday. It contained part of the Republican plan to use some revenue from gambling fees to establish a special fund for elementary and secondary schools.

The money in the fund would not be distributed through the traditional formula, which is based partly on local taxes and a school district's wealth. Instead, the Republican plan would give the money to schools based on the number of students in a district.

Republicans said per-student funding would be fairer.

Democrats said it would benefit wealthy school districts and would lead to a lawsuit. They argued that funding a new education plan wasn't possible in a tough financial year when lawmakers are struggling to find money for the traditional school funding formula.

Simulcast races

Originally, the chamber was debating legislation to allow a horse racing track to conduct wagering on simulcast horse races, which are televised from other tracks.

Under current law, a Missouri track can hold one day of simulcast betting for each day it holds live races. But most horse tracks cannot afford to have races every day, said the bill's supporters.

A measure was added to the bill to charge a $3 admission fee, of which $1 would go to the education formula.

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