7/29/2012  5:05:00  PM   McGhee's  plan  could  slash  school  funding   EDITORIAL  –  The  Daily  Star  Journal;  Warrensburg,  MO

    Jack  Miles   Editor       Missouri's  Education  Foundation  Formula  is  based  on  the  state's  Constitution,  which   requires  "equity"  in  public  school  funding,  a  concept  under  attack  from  Rep.  Mike   McGhee.     "Equity"  means  a  fair  amount  of  state  money  per  pupil  for  all  school  districts.   Reaching  equity  is  not  so  simple  as  dividing  100  pennies  between  two  children  on  a   playground.  To  achieve  equity,  there  are  two  main  funding  sources  to  consider:   state  and  local  taxes.     Local  property  tax  income  in  some  areas  of  the  state  is  great  -­‐  eight  of  the  state's  10   richest  districts  occupy  St.  Louis  County.  Less  money  is  available  in  rural  counties   where  there  is  less  business  and  industry,  such  as  in  the  21st  Senatorial  District  -­‐   Johnson,  Lafayette,  Ray,  Saline,  Howard,  Carroll,  Caldwell  and  Livingston.       The  Foundation  Formula  considers  the  local  tax  base.  To  achieve  the  constitutional   requirement  of  equity,  the  formula  divides  state  tax  dollars  based  on  need.  Rich   districts  with  a  solid  property  tax  base  get  less  from  the  state  and  poor  rural   districts  with  a  weaker  local  tax  base  get  more.     Other  concerns  come  into  play  when  dividing  funding  equitably.  Those  concerns   include  the  higher  cost  to  educate  children  who  may  have  learning  handicaps.  But   when  all  state  and  local  tax  dollars  are  taken  into  account,  the  overall  focus  is  on   achieving  equity  in  spending  on  public  school  children.     The  formula,  though  not  perfect,  works  when  funded  properly.  Therein  lies  a  huge   problem.  Because  expected  state  funding  has  fallen  off,  provisions  in  the  present   formula  have  tilted  in  an  unexpected  way,  so  that  the  formula  favors  rich  school   districts.       Sen.  David  Pearce  for  the  last  three  General  Assembly  sessions  has  presented  bills   and  advocated  strongly  for  restoring  equity  to  the  formula,  and  though  he  is  right  to   do  so,  he  has  faced  fierce  opposition  from  St.  Louis  County  lawmakers.  They  have   used  their  filibuster  power  to  defeat  the  majority  of  lawmakers  who  favor  Pearce's   plan.     Now  comes  McGhee  to  add  to  the  concerns  of  rural  school  districts.  McGhee  told   Sara  Seidel  -­‐  a  Richmond  Daily  News  reporter  and  a  teacher  -­‐  something  troubling   about  state  funding:  "He'd  rewrite  funding  directives  to  take  all  the  money  

earmarked  for  education  and  divide  it  by  the  total  number  of  children  in  Missouri   schools.  'Everybody  gets  the  same  ...  to  educate  the  children.'"     McGhee,  who  is  running  against  Pearce  for  the  21st  Senatorial  District  seat,   proposes  nothing  less  than  a  nightmare  for  rural  schools  already  facing  financial   woes.     Equitable  state  funding  takes  into  account  each  local  tax  base,  and  considers  the   need  for  extra  money  to  bus  rural  children  long  distances,  the  need  to  provide  an   education  to  immigrant  children,  and  the  need  to  aid  children  who  have  handicaps,   such  as  blindness.       Equal  funding,  where  "everybody  gets  the  same"  from  the  state,  takes  nothing  into   account  and  would  be  a  disaster  for  rural  schools.     Russell  Smithson,  immediate  past  president  of  the  Missouri  State  Teachers   Association,  said  the  McGhee  plan  would  strip  millions  from  rural  schools,  including   about  $100,000  from  Warrensburg,  and  varying  amounts  from  other  Johnson   County  districts.       McGhee's  education  plan  may  be  right  for  the  rich  school  districts  in  St.  Louis   County,  but  is  wrong  for  the  rural  districts  of  the  21st  Senatorial  District.