Superintendent hopeful 2021 transportation funding will increase

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 2/5/20

Gov. Mike Parson’s State of the State address Jan. 15 mentioned a transportation funding increase that could mean more funds for area schools like Maries County R-2 School District. …

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Superintendent hopeful 2021 transportation funding will increase

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Gov. Mike Parson’s State of the State address Jan. 15 mentioned a transportation funding increase that could mean more funds for area schools like Maries County R-2 School District.

“I am very hopeful for an increase in transportation reimbursement,” said Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham. “We transport students regardless of the reimbursement rate from DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). If there were an increase in the rate, we could relocate those funds towards other district needs.”

According to Basham, Maries County R-2 drivers travel about 800 miles daily to transport students.

“Last year, we drove around 120,000 miles for regular routes (not counting extracurricular activities),” Basham said.

The legislation says schools should get 70 percent of the reimbursable cause back and they haven’t funded it for a long time at that level.

“We anticipate $75,000 in reimbursement from DESE for transportation, which is about 20 percent reimbursement for all our regular route transportation expenses,” Basham explained. According to the state’s 2021 budget and legislative priorities, a $10 million increase was suggested, which would bring the state’s 2020 transportation budget to $117.5 million total. The state board of education had requested the legislature look at adding $60 million into education over the next three years, for a total of $180 million, to try to catch up transportation underfunding. In the past, if the state struggled to fund the education formula and they had to withhold money, the transportation fund would catch the bulk of the withholding. It is now being funded at 25 to 30 percent.

Underfunding transportation affects the larger, rural districts more than other areas with a smaller geographical footprint.

“The cost of transporting students that is not reimbursed by DESE must come from our general funds,” Basham said. “Those general funds could be used for instructional purposes if they were not being used to cover transportation costs for the districts.”

If the transportation fund is increased, more of the education formula would return to benefit the classrooms. Dr. Margie Vandeven, Missouri’s Commissioner of Education, was available for comment at the Missouri State Capitol Jan. 15 and said she “certainly understands the priority of transportation for the school districts.”

“We are pleased to see an increase in transportation in the budget,” Vandeven said. “I think it speaks to the level of importance that (Parson) sees.”

She reminds everyone that even if the state doesn’t fund transportation, it falls to the school districts to come up with the shortage.

Parson mentioned a list of items about education in his State of the State address, which included:

Adding $10 million to fund the education formula, bring the base founding funding to more than $3.56 billion.

Funding the second year of MO Excels projects to facilitate the development of employer-driven workforce education and training programs at Missouri’s higher education institutions at $19.6 million.

Missouri One Start will receive a 14.9 million continuing regional economic growth and providing workforce solutions to allow business to create and retain jobs in Missouri, making Missouri businesses more competitive.

$750,000 to Jobs for America’s Graduates, helping to provide at-risk youth graduate high school and successfully transition to post-secondary education or meaningful employment.

$4.4 million to fund the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant to continue to address workforce needs by encouraging adults to pursue a certificate, degree or industry-recognized credential in an area designated as high-demand.

$85,500 to Career Ready 101 to help cover the ongoing licensing costs to expand this program to all 57 high school career and technical centers.

$750,000 to WorkKeys Assessment and Career Readiness, allowing approximately 12,000 additional students to take the ACT WorkKeys and Career Readiness Assessment, providing credentials indicating an individual’s mastery of skills critical to success across industries and occupations.

$295,804 to cover costs for first-time High School Equivalency Exam test takers, including those in the Department of Social Services Division of Youth Services, Job Corps, High School Option students, and test-takers at the Department of Corrections.

$500,000 to Virtual Education Workforce Initiative to expand Springfield School District’s Launch program statewide, an online learning platform that began in 2017.

$10,000 to JAG Curriculum Development, funding the development of a virtual high school curriculum, delivered through the Springfield School District’s Launch platform to allow access to students at school districts without the program.

$4.8 million to fund A+ Scholarship funds to eligible graduates who attend a participating public community college.

$500,000 to Bright Flight Academic Scholarship to maintain full funding for the academic scholarship program.

A $12 million increase to Early Childhood Education.

An 11.2 million increase to Preschool Development.

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