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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Funds Released by Governor will Benefit Springfield Health Programs, Libraries

Office of Gov. Jay Nixon
Gov. Jay Nixon/Credit: Governor's Office

Gov. Jay Nixon says an increase in revenue has prompted the release of $43 million, which in turn will benefit various projects in Springfield and around the state.

Funds previously withheld from the Occupational Therapy Program at Missouri State University and the University of Missouri clinical campus in Springfield are now back to originally allocated levels. Roughly half of those dollars had been released in February. On Friday, Nixon announced he would return the remaining $705,000 for MSU and $5.32 million for UM.

Clif Smart, MSU president, tells KSMU, “We had met with the governor’s office three or four weeks ago with the chancellor at MU and the folks at Mercy and Cox and with our chamber representative and we got a really good reception and a good feeling that if the revenue came in this would be one of the priorities. And he came through on his promise on that and so very pleased.”

Smart says this means the program will have been completely funded for two years now.

“And two days ago the Senate continued this funding for a third year and so we think we’ll be in a regular rotation – there will be money that we can rely upon – and so again we’re waiting for word from the Higher Learning Commission that we’ll be accredited and given permission to start in the fall.”

That decision, he says, should come within the next 30 days. So far approximately 100 students have submitted applications for MSU’s Occupational Therapy program. The first class will seat 24.

“It’s a matter of going through the selection process – so I think we’ll have a full class and a good class,” Smart added.

As for the University of Missouri, with the additional $5.32 million, coupled with February’s release of $4.68 million, the program has now recouped last year’s $10 million appropriation. That’s also the annual cost for UM so that its School of Medicine students can observe Springfield doctors as part of a partnership with Coxhealth and Mercy.

Weldon Webb, associate dean for Springfield clinical campus implementation, said in an email that the release of this funding shows the recommitment of Gov. Nixon to this project.

“This funding will allow the project to continue to move forward in an effort to provide additional physicians to Missouri. We want to acknowledge President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s leadership in this budget process and Sen. Kurt Schaefer’s support in placing $10 million in the fiscal year 2016 budget,” Webb said.

Webb had previously stated that if funding comes together, students can begin observing at Springfield in summer 2016, during their third year of the program.

Nixon’s announcement Friday to release $43 million comes on the heels of a report that shows year-to-date net general revenue collections have increased 6.8 percent compared to 2014.

The governor named more than 20 programs to which he’ll be releasing funds, including the state’s libraries.

In a statement, Springfield-Greene County Library District Executive Director Regina Greer Cooper said, “We are extremely pleased that Gov. Nixon this morning announced the release of library funds that have previously been withheld from this year’s budget. Our library district, alone, will receive approximately $200,000, which will allow us to purchase the books, materials and equipment that we had put on hold.”

Springfield-Greene County libraries had recently joined in a letter-writing and online petition effort with library districts statewide appealing the governor to release funds critical to the operation of libraries and Internet access for the public.

Nixon’s action released all the monies that he had withheld from state libraries in cities with populations of over 40,000. That equates to $2.7 million in state aid for those libraries and $3.1 million for Internet access.

Follow Scott Harvey on Twitter: @scottksmu

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