Mo. budget panel backs Nixon on K-12, universities

A House committee approved a state budget Tuesday that would hold funding steady for public K-12 schools while cutting aid for colleges and universities.

The spending plan approved by the House Budget Committee totals about $23.2 billion, larger than the plan Gov. Jay Nixon submitted in February by about $142 million.

The budget plan would allot about $3 billion in basic aid for public schools in the upcoming academic year, the same amount they received this year. The House amount includes some money carried over from the current budget, thanks to an influx of federal funds. Nixon originally had proposed to provide schools additional federal money this year and less money next year, making schools responsible for carrying over some money.

The House committee stuck with Nixon’s recommendation of about $98 million in busing funds for the upcoming school year. That’s about a third less than schools originally were budgeted to receive in busing aid this year, before Nixon made cuts last summer in the face of falling state revenues.

Some lawmakers distributed amendments Tuesday that would have provided more funding for public school bus transportation. Six amendments would have added about $35 million in school busing money, but the committee did not vote on any of those proposals.

Rep. Sarah Lampe, D-Springfield, proposed and withdrew an amendment that would have taken money from a state ethanol subsidy and added it to the school busing funds.

Lampe said many school districts would have to cut back in other areas to maintain their busing routes with the reduced funding.

“For rural schools, it’s especially devastating,” Lampe said. “Our schoolchildren are sacrificing.”

The House committee also went along with Nixon’s proposed 7 percent cut in core funding for public colleges and universities.

For the past two years, Missouri’s colleges and universities have held tuition flat in exchange for a $50 million funding cut this year and an essentially flat amount of state aid the previous year. That deal, brokered by Nixon, expires after the current school year. Many colleges and universities already have indicated they plan to raise tuition next school year to offset some of the state funding cuts.

The spending plan must go to the full House before it can move to the Senate. Missouri’s budget year begins July 1.

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