When the Missouri General Assembly convenes three weeks from today for the start of the 2018 session, lawmakers will begin sifting through a plethora of legislative wishlists of organizations large and small — from business to labor to education, all wanting some bills passed and others defeated.
The Gasconade County R-1 School District is no different: Officials here have their own priority list that has been presented to their state legislators.
At the top of the list is an issue of importance to a lot of rural Missouri school districts: Increased funding for bus systems.
The past two years in particular have not been kind to R-1 and other rural districts in terms of transportation funding. Legislators have yet to begin tackling the issue for the state budget that takes effect July 1.
Here is the R-1 legislative priority list:
• A plan to fully fund the transportation formula, as well as Parents as Teachers.
• Ensuring that a long-term plan is developed to fund early childhood education programs in all school districts.
• Increased funding and the creation of initiatives to provide training to school districts and administrators in order to utilize the resources available in their community to provide mental health care to students.
• Developing a definition consistent with the Missouri Constitution in order to determine “new construction and improvements” within the assessed value of state-assessed property.
• Reforming Missouri’s tax credit programs by:
— Placing a sunset clause on all current and future tax-credit program.
— Prohibiting the use of multiple tax-credit programs on the same project, particularly the stacking of the low-income tax credit with the historic preservation tax credit.
— Conducting a standardized, annual review of tax-credit programs to monitor and report on each tax credit’s return on investment.
— Tying the caps of tax-credit programs to funding of categorial education spending.
— Modifying the Circuit Break Tax Credit to increase the number of eligible participants.
• Providing additional funding for technology, MOREnet, math and science equipment, Safe Schools Grants and alternative education programs.
• Funding for the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program rather than the establishment of statewide open-enrollment policies to virtual charter or virtual private schools.
There are some things R-1 officials do not want legislators to do.
• Diverting state funds from the public schools by any means including tuition tax credits/vouchers.
• Mandating open enrollment of students to attend schools in districts in which their parents do not pay property taxes.
• Any effort to reduce the amount of funding available to districts for summer school.
• Mandating programs without appropriating the necessary funds to implement and sustain the programs.
• Any effort to change the current process for determining the taxable assessed value and tax status of senior-citizen living facilities in Missouri.
• Imposing property tax reductions, freezes or limits.
• Transforming the early childhood special education program from a required to a voluntary program.
• Replacing the Missouri income tax with a sales tax.
• Limiting the ability of school districts to seek civil, equitable and other legal remedies.
The R-1 legislative priority package was presented to State Sen. Jeannie Riddle and State Rep. Justin Alferman at this year’s Governmental Relations Day on Friday, Nov. 10.