ST. LOUIS – Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, visited the set of This Week in Missouri Politics for Sunday’s episode and discussed, among other things, the behind-the scenes process of fully funding the foundation formula for the first time in state history.
Sen. Gary Romine, the Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee, led the effort on the floor, and Libla was one of many senators who assisted him. When it came up for the final vote, Libla said he was not sure which way the vote would go, but he was optimistic.
“You never know what’s going to happen on the Senate floor and there really wasn’t some kind of great, big, gigantic, concerted effort where people were meeting in back rooms or anything,” Libla said. “I was just sitting at my desk thinking this has a good shot to pass.”
Eighteen senators from both sides of the aisle, including Libla and Romine, voted against 14 of their fellow members, including many members of Senate leadership, to approve the House’s plan to fund the formula.
The opinion-maker panel generally approved the added funds but noted it came with some caveats. Rep. Paul Curtman noted it was “a surprise,” but a welcome one.
“I think the House was really pleased,” Curtman, R-Pacific, said. “[House Budget Chair] Scott Fitzpatrick was really pleased; I know this has been a priority of his for a while. So, I think it was a good week for education, it was a good week for our budget process.”
However, Republican strategist David Barklage argued it woudl not solve all of the state’s education woes.
“I don’t think it’s the end-all fix,” he said. “I hope the House and the Senate are able to this session and next session are able to gear down and focus on some more substantive education reforms long-term.”
AFL-CIO President Mike Louis noted Romine had been leading efforts for increased technical education that would address the skills gap between high school education and jobs needed by emerging industries in Missouri.
Spencer Fane attorney Jane Dueker noted that after a bill was passed last year to effectively change the goalpost made this year’s fully funding mean a bit less than it would ahve in previous years.
“They lowered the bar to funding the formula, what most people need to realize is that most experts will say this new formula is still $400 million short,” she said. “The fact that they’re now meeting a lower standard, that is obviously a bare minimum that has been set.”
Libla, however, says it still means there will be significantly more funds headed to Missouri schools this year.
“It means they’re going to have the necessary assets to be able to make sure we’re providing education to the students of Missouri,” Libla said.