The General Assembly had a historic moment Tuesday when a bipartisan coalition of senators agreed to fully fund a state formula that allocates money to school districts.
Ten Republicans joined all nine Senate Democrats to amend the recommendation of the Senate Appropriations Committee and fund the formula, over the objections of Republican leadership.
Senators forcefully debated whether to fully fund the foundation formula, which was created to depoliticize school funding and enforce a mechanical way to calculate how much each district should get in state money. Once the formula is fully funded, it triggers a clause that would require the state to fund early childcare programs next year.
Sen. Gary Romine R-Farmington, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, proposed the amendment to fully fund the formula, adding about $40 million to the budget. His recommendation matched action in the House, which already approved fully funding the formula.
He was met with firm opposition from Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Brown said senators shouldn’t change his committee’s decisions, allowing differences with the House to be worked out in a conference committee.
As the vote neared, Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, reminded senators of the importance of their vote.
“We’re getting ready to take a vote of historic proportions for the first time in the 11 years I’ve been here,” Holsman said. “We’re getting ready to vote to fully fund (the formula) in both chambers. That’s good for our kids, that’s good for our communities, that’s good for the future of the state of Missouri.”
After the vote, some Republicans took to Twitter to celebrate. Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, noted that the vote was taken over the objection of his own party’s leadership. “Doing the right thing is the right thing, regardless if ‘leadership’ tells you not to,” Silvey tweeted. “The Senate is a body of equals, not lemmings.”