As many of you know, Missouri is facing a difficult upcoming fiscal year. While the prospect of unexpected revenue from a tobacco settlement could potentially improve the situation, lawmakers will still have to make some difficult choices in order to pass a balanced budget, which is required by the Missouri Constitution. Among other items, proposed budget cuts include student transportation funding, something that will disproportionately affect our rural school districts.
On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee, on which I serve as chairman, heard testimony on legislation aimed at alleviating some of the financial strain our school districts will likely face as they go about supplementing their transportation allowances. Very simply, Senate Bill 434 allows Missouri’s school districts to use up to one-half of 1 percent of their professional development funding to cover student transportation costs whenever the state reimbursement rate falls below 25 percent. A majority of the district’s school board must approve the decision.
Professional development is important, but it also loses its purpose if we cannot get our kids to school in the first place. If signed into law, SB 434 will give Missouri school districts more flexibility in how they spend their money, ensuring they can provide our students with the best possible education, even when finances are tight.
In other Education Committee news, we have already heard several bills this session pertaining to early childhood education. While there are many moving parts to consider when it comes to early childhood education, it seems as though people tend to disagree most about how much, or how little, government should be involved. I absolutely see the value in early childhood education, but I also recognize that a lack of parental involvement can often account for the gap in a child’s preparedness for formal education. Ultimately, whatever legislation we pass concerning early childhood education, we must ensure we are creating the best environment for children to grow, learn and be successful from an early age.
I wanted to briefly mention the outstanding showing of community support I have seen in the days since southeastern Missouri was hit by a tornado. My office received a number of calls from residents of St. Francois County and the surrounding area, all asking how they could best help our neighbors in Perryville. I want to thank every constituent of the 3rd Senate District who stopped whatever they were doing to help their fellow Missourians in a time of great need and loss. Your efforts have truly been a blessing.
It was my privilege to welcome the following visitors to the Capitol this week: Sara Sucharski, Linda Dallas and Andrea Wolf from PonyBird, Inc.; Steve Elsea with Citizens Electric Cooperative and John Singleton with Black River Electric Cooperative; Veronica Jackson and Paul Mallmann, both from Bismarck; Shelly Hendry, of Potosi; Nathan Null, of Festus; Dr. Gregory Terpstra and Mark Mullen, of Potosi; Dr. Steve Kurtz with Mineral Area College; Sandra Cabot, director of the Ste. Genevieve Tourism and Economic Development Office; and Laura Becker and Sherry Cauley, both from Festus, who were representing the Missouri Coalition for Oral Health.
I also had the opportunity to meet with a group of students from DeSoto High School, who were up visiting with the Speak Hard Youth Conference. They included: Taleasa Berry, Mary Sapper, Nolan Willford, Mary Schneider, Elizabeth Willford, Olivia Dickey and Emily Manning.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4008. You may write me at Gary Romine, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101; or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.