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Elected Officials, PTA Discuss Ways to Increase Funding for Springfield Public Schools

State officials, teachers and parents met Wednesday at McBride Elementary School in Springfield to discuss the state's economic forecast, and how it will affect Springfield public education. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe was at the legislative town hall meeting, and has this report.

Elected officials at the meeting agreed that public schools will be hit hard because of the decline in general revenue. State representative Sara Lampe says that soon, the school district won’t have enough money for buses, and that will leave many students without a way to get to class every morning. She also says class sizes will increase.

“When a parent understands that their kid is now one of 30 or 35 in a classroom instead of one of 20, then they’re going to say ‘Hey wait a minute, maybe we need to look at revenue in the state of Missouri.’ The scary part is that it’s going to take that kind of a crisis before we realize that we’re going to have to do something in the state of Missouri. Either that, or we ‘re going to have to come up with money locally,” Lampe said.

Lampe says the reality is that though no one wants to see their taxes go up, it’s necessary if the Springfield Public School district wants to maintain the level of quality education it’s known for. It’s important, she says, that elected officials and voters fight to protect general revenue for public education, so that it’s not diverted for tax credits and vouchers for certain students to attend private and parochial schools.

Donna Petiford is the president of the Missouri Parent Teachers Association. Her daughter was a Springfield public school student from Kindergarten through 12th grade, and Petiford was a parent volunteer for all of those years. She says the bigger the classroom, the harder it is for teachers to be effective.

“I know parents are always concerned when the number gets up to a certain point, but we have to be ready to provide the solution which might actually be more local taxes going toward our public schools,”

State Senator Bob Dixon says a big issue at the upcoming state legislative session is talk about a new funding formula, which is Missouri’s primary method of distributing money to public schools.

“That will be a big fight for Springfield. We have to make sure that we protect our area of the state and improve our standing within the new formula. That will pit a lot of school districts, it already has, against one another in that fight,” Dixon said.

The Missouri legislative session begins January 4th and will run through mid-May. For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.