Superintendent hopeful for FY2021 state transportation funding hike

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 1/22/20

Dr. Chuck Garner, Gasconade County R-2 Superintendent, told the board of education Monday night that Gov. Mike Parson’s State of the State Address Jan. 15 mentioned a transportation funding …

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Superintendent hopeful for FY2021 state transportation funding hike

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Dr. Chuck Garner, Gasconade County R-2 Superintendent, told the board of education Monday night that Gov. Mike Parson’s State of the State Address Jan. 15 mentioned a transportation funding increase.

Gasconade County R-2 District covers about 354 square miles, which is the 17 largest geographical school district in the state.

“As you know, we are underfunded about 50 percent,” Garner told board members Jan. 20, adding that while the governor would like to increase transportation funding, he wasn’t sure by how much. “The legislation says we should get 70 percent of the reimbursable costs back and they haven’t funded it for a long time at that level.”

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.

“What the state board of education had requested was 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,” Garner said. “Every year in the past, if they struggled to fund the education formula and they had to withhold money, they would always withhold it out of the transportation fund. It is now being funded at 25 to 30 percent.”

Garner said the disparity between school district sizes means underfunding transportation affects this district more than other areas with a smaller geographical footprints.

“I am hopeful they add money to the transportation (fund) because we still have to transport kids — the law says we still have to do that. So that money is going to come out of the classroom to go towards transportation.”

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.

Garner gave the board a list of items Parson mentioned 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 $14.9 million for 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 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 addressing 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, and 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.

Sixth candidate files for R-2 Board of Directors

Jason Crowe of Gerald filed as a candidate for the R-2 School District’s Board of Education at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on the filing day of the month-long sign-up period.

Crowe’s declaration means R-2  patrons will have six candidates  to chose from for three director’s seats. Each of the positions carry a three-year term.

Filing previously were incumbents Nona Miller and Glenn Ely, currently president of the board, along with Dennis Frahm, Kara Meyer, and Jean Baker.

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