Local school district superintendents are concerned about the threat of a filibuster that could strip over $3 million from the budgets of local districts.
Several Republican senators upset about federal spending ended a filibuster last week against legislation renewing the federal long-term jobless benefits. A similar filibuster against federal education funds is what worries education officials across the state.
Should that occur, Franklin County school districts stand to lose about $3.2 million in funding.
Roughly $189 million in grants are available as part of the federal stimulus.
Senators promised that none of the additional budget cuts will have an impact on education, according to a newsletter from the Missouri School Boards’ Association that was sent Friday to school superintendents.
Union R-XI School Superintendent Steve Bryant called Nieves' recent filibuster on jobless benefits a “political stunt” and questions Nieves’ motives.
“His (Nieves) idea is that we need to work on federal spending, but I just don’t feel this type of political stunt is how we accomplish that,” said Bryant. “It seems likely that his philosophy centers around major contributors like Rex Sinquefield.”
Sinquefield is a conservative financial contributor who has focused on supporting public school vouchers and opposing campaign contribution limits.
Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer also had expressed grave concerns about the loss of funding. She, along with other area superintendents, have sent letters to legislators outlining those concerns.
“It really was on the verge on ridiculous, but this latest change of events appears to be good news for public school districts,” VanLeer said. “I understand the principle of the matter, but it’s at the expense of schoolchildren.”
Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration has plans to give out two installments of federal money, one this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and one in fiscal year 2012.
Franklin County districts would receive $603,961 in funding this year if House Bill 15 is approved by the senate and $2,608,698 next year.
The bill passed the Missouri House with a vote of 152-0 in February.
Nieves and others including Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, were filibustering the measure in the Senate however, saying the rejection of federal aid will send a message about government overspending.
“I certainly understand the point that Sen. Nieves is trying to make in curtailing federal spending, and I don’t think anyone disagrees that we need to make more changes at the federal level, and at the same time, I understand the financial needs of this state,” Bryant said.
“This money is being put out regardless. It is already in the pipeline. He certainly has the right to make a point, but that money won’t be sent back to the federal government — it will be redistributed to other states,” Bryant added. “It really puts a big hole in the already strained budget of Missouri.”
“That jobs bill was to plug a hole in the state education budget. I think it is a real detriment in out ability to serve kids,” Bryant said,
Nieves told a local radio station this week that he is one of several “ultra-conservative” senators in the Senate.
“I’ve got good news and bad news,” he said. “The good news is the people of this area elected an ultra-conservative to represent them in the Missouri Senate. The bad news is the people elected an ultra-conservative to represent them in the Missouri Senate.”
Nixon’s office outlined the payments set to go to each district. Every district in the county would receive funding under the proposed bill.
The following is a list of payments provided by Nixon’s office for the current fiscal year and next fiscal year per district in the county:
Franklin County R-II (New Haven) — fiscal year 2011, $7,696; fiscal year 2012, $32,392.
Lonedell R-XIV — fiscal year 2011, $26,574; fiscal year 2012, $108,299.
Meramec Valley R-III — fiscal year 2011, $138,325; fiscal year 2012, $586,867.
New Haven — fiscal year 2011, $18,442; fiscal year 2012, $78,074.
Spring Bluff R-XV — fiscal year 2011, $17,776; fiscal year 2012, $77,120.
St. Clair R-XIII — fiscal year 2011, $107,934; fiscal year 2012, $471,109.
Strain-Japan R-XVI — fiscal year 2011, $4,664; fiscal year 2012, $20,495.
Sullivan C-2 — fiscal year 2011, $99,447; fiscal year 2012, $431,087.
Union R-XI — fiscal year 2011, $112,865; fiscal year 2012, $497,361.
Washington — fiscal year 2011, $70,238; fiscal year 2012, $305,894.