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New formula won’t stop lawsuit, Chase predicts

Published Thursday, May 12, 2005

The General Assembly’s new plan for education funding will not stop a lawsuit brought by more than 250 school districts in Missouri, Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Phyllis Chase said.

She says her school district has lost $43 million from the state’s inability to fully fund the existing foundation formula and will not benefit from the new formula.

Chase also serves as vice president of the Committee for Education Equality, the coalition of schools in the lawsuit. "Some certainly will benefit from this new legislation, and yet, when we all joined, we agreed that adequacy was the primary goal here," Chase said. "We’ve taken the same piece of pie and sliced it differently. But the pie no longer matches the needs of the state."

The lawsuit has been on hold since November, when a Cole County judge agreed to allow the legislature to address the funding formula first.

The committee’s attorney, Alex Bartlett, said he expects the case to go forward with minor changes to address the new legislation. He said the state’s needs-based system is a good start, but the per-pupil funding level still is too low.

Bartlett predicts the state’s system would have a "stagnating effect" on schools. He said the projected funding levels don’t keep up with inflation.

The lack of a funding source in the state’s proposal is another key reason to press on, he said, even for districts that would substantially gain.

Even fully funded, Chase said, the new formula isn’t enough to support Columbia schools. The district’s salary schedule and other fixed costs increase by $3 million to $4 million annually, but the new formula will only increase Columbia’s funding by $1.3 million over eight years.

"This new funding formula is going to have a significant impact on the way we do business here in Columbia," Chase said. "There’s no way we can continue to increase the expectations from the state and the federal government and not increase the funding mechanisms by which to support those initiatives, in my opinion."


Reach Megan Means at (573) 815-1705 or mmeans@tribmail.com.

 

 

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