Very recently, the Missouri Supreme Court settled a major Education law suit that has major significance for all schools in Missouri. Essentially, the ruling held that the Missouri Constitution guarantees a free public education for all children but not access to equal funding for all. Thus the big discrepancies in per pupil costs, ranging from $4,704.00 per pupil in Wellston to $15,251.00 in Clayton can remain. This decision sounds like ”it is fair to be unfair.”
School financing is incredibly complex. In Missouri there have been many attempts to make the formula more equitable but major differences still prevail. Now it is now up to the school districts to determine how best to spend the resources they have. And I know that is difficult.
Of course, there is one solution: Have the Missouri legislature pass new legislation that would equalize the per pupil funding for all school districts. But do not hold your breath!
So right now approximately 70% of existing school resources are used for teachers’ salaries which does not leave much discretionary money. Thus many schools will have to reassess how the remaining funds can best be spent.
Schools may have to cooperate with one another to share existing programs so there is less duplication. Students can assist the schools and save costs by helping to clean up the classrooms (there are schools that do this), becoming student aides in the cafeteria, and student tutors. Schools may have to go to a four day week with longer hours to save a day’s worth of costs. Solutions will not be easy.
While the above suggestions may not be the best, the time has come for us to maximize our resources and still not harm our students’ education, the most important factor of all.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Susan Uchitelle is a consultant for the Voluntary Interdistrict Coordinating Council.