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Parson announces more Missouri budget cuts: K-12 education takes a $133 million hit

Parson announces more Missouri budget cuts: K-12 education takes a $133 million hit

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JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson on Monday announced an additional $209 million in budget cuts before the end of this fiscal year, with the majority of cuts hitting the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Of the $209 million in new cuts, more than $131 million will come from K-12 education, Parson said.

“These were extremely difficult decisions I never thought I would have to make in just a few months,” Parson said during a press briefing.

Parson had already slashed more than $220 million in spending to the roughly $30 billion state budget as revenue collections sputtered in recent months due to the coronavirus response. He had avoided drastic cuts to K-12 education — until Monday.

The governor said “hold-harmless” school districts — 191 of the state’s more than 500 districts — would also face cuts.

Hold-harmless districts, while not receiving increases in state foundation formula funding, also don’t typically face cuts to state aid, said Mallory McGowin, spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

She said many low-income districts, as well as smaller school districts, fall on the list of “hold-harmless” districts. In the St. Louis area, St. Louis Public Schools, Brentwood, Clayton, Jennings, Ladue, Riverview Gardens and Valley Park, among other districts, fall into the hold-harmless category, she said.

“I think the governor’s office was trying to be very thoughtful in how they went about these restrictions,” McGowin said. On cutting aid to only some school districts, “I don’t think they saw that as the most fair situation,” she said.

Meredith Pierce, spokeswoman for St. Louis Public Schools, said the district participated in a conference call with districts on May 20, where budget cuts were one topic that was discussed.

“So, we were not surprised by the announcement, and like our colleagues in districts across the state, we are working through our 2020-2021 school year budgets with these restrictions in mind,” she said.

While the governor’s office originally said the education department would face $131 million in cuts, McGowin said the state would also cut more than $2 million for the Sheltered Workshops Program, which provides work experiences in a controlled setting to people with disabilities.

Also Monday, Parson said the state would pull $41 million from the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, which had already taken a budget hit this year.

According to a tracking list of cuts, Parson also withheld $6 million for home and community-based in-home services, $10 million for institutional programs within the Department of Corrections and $2 million for Medicaid administrative costs.

Democrats, out of power in Jefferson City, quickly seized on the news to blast GOP tax policy.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Republican tax cuts in recent years left the state without a buffer to help weather the economic downturn.

“Every time Republicans chipped away at Missouri’s revenue base, Democrats warned these short-sighted decisions would pay a terrible dividend when the next economic downturn hit, and there always is a next one,” she said in a news release.

“As a state elected official who supported these failed policies for the past 15 years, Gov. Mike Parson shares responsibility for weakening state revenue structures and making this financial crisis worse than it otherwise might have been,” Quade said.

Blythe Bernhard of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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