The end of the 2012 legislative session has Union School Superintendent, Steve Bryant setting a goal to become more active in positive legislation for students.
The biggest issue during the past session was the underfunding of the foundation formula, he said.
For the first time in four years, the state’s operating budget was not supplemented with one-time federal stimulus or stabilization funds.
One disappointment, Bryant said, is that the Legislature did not take any action on foundation funding and left it up to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to decide how to distribute the funding.
“I understand the state only has so much money to deal with, but we also don’t need to stick our heads in the sand and not look at possible sources of funding,” he said. “I think we should look closer at them and look at the feasibility of it.”
The formula is underfunded by $400 million, which is about a $1 million slice for the Union School District.
“Basically, the House leadership said it would only consider any changes on the foundation formula if they were tied to major education reform,” Bryant said.
Some of those issues include privatization measures, tax credits, charter open enrollment, charter school expansion and a highly debated teacher tenure reform.
Neither the House nor the Senate voted on the formula bill.
“As school leaders, we look at this and realize nothing was done with the formula. We asked if there has been any effort to look at any new revenue streams,” Bryant said.
Discussion on how to fund the formula has included adding sales tax on Internet sales and increasing the cigarette sales tax. Missouri has one of the nation’s lowest cigarette taxes.
Bryant said there should be further study on tax credits. Missouri currently spends approximately $700 million in tax credits every year.
Credits are used on private investments in certain sectors such as low-income housing and preservation of historical buildings.
“Over the past three years the Senate has passed several proposals that would have reformed this tax credit proposals that would have saved the state a lot of money, but the House hasn’t been receptive,” he said.
Through the Education Roundtable, Bryant said he plans to be more active in the Legislature.
The Education Roundtable is composed of various school-related organizations including the Missouri School Boards Association, Missouri Association of School Administrators, Missouri State Teachers Association, Missouri National Education Association, the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals, Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals; Missouri High School Principals Association, the DESE and others.
“Funding is a major portion of being more proactive,” Bryant said, adding that the roundtable would be more active in promoting the Vision Project, a statewide comprehensive plan for public education.
The project focuses on seven groups working on various segments of public education, including teaching, learning and assessment; climate, culture and organizational efficacy; early learning and student success; human and organizational capital; physical resources; governance, leadership and accountability; and financial resources.
“It seems like a lot of times, we’re fighting against certain legislation rather than working toward positive legislation,” he said. “We would like to come from a more positive approach.”
Bryant serves on the state executive committee for the Missouri Association of School Administrators.
Additionally, he will try to promote the project at a local level.
“It is the goal of most school leaders in the area to help people understand more clearly (what the vision project is) as well as to promote it to legislators,” Bryant said. “Funding always is a major part because it’s critical to what we need to do.”
“Our goal is for student success not only in the areas of written tests, but in careers and in various aspects of life.”