Senator Sater’s Capitol Report, for the Week of April 16: Preparing Students for the Future

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As a product of public education, and with a parent who was an educator, I know the tremendous value of a quality education. Not only is it important in the here and now, but it is vital to ensuring our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to achieve their goals and be successful. We know our state’s economy is directly tied to the quality of education we can provide our kids, from early childhood to graduate school. In a world where business knows no borders and competition for jobs and other opportunities is fierce, a quality education—and a commitment to lifelong learning—opens doors to the best opportunities.

That means we need to promote the best possible overall education for our kids, both at the elementary and secondary level and at our colleges and universities. That’s what we’re doing in Missouri. Again, the Missouri Legislature is budgeting record levels of funding for Missouri schools. The Foundation Formula, the primary source of state funding for education and the basis for how money is divided among K-12 public schools, will again see more funding than it ever has. The Missouri Constitution requires that at least 25 percent of revenue go to education funding. We are dedicating nearly 40 percent of revenue to education. This historic funding increase for education shows our commitment to providing every Missouri child with a quality education.

Under the Senate’s budget, schools will also receive a significant bump in transportation funding. For the last several years, funding for buses has gone down while costs have steadily gone up. This is a big problem in our neck of the woods. One school district in the area I represent, McDonald County, drives an average of 3,700 miles a day. That’s the equivalent of a trip from McDonald County to San Francisco and back every day. In Cassville, their buses drive 1,700 miles a day. That’s a road trip to Los Angeles. Funding in the classroom is important but if we can’t get our kids to school or to their ballgames, band and choir events, or FFA competitions, that funding can’t do its job.

We know for many kids, their education doesn’t end when they walk across the stage at high school graduation. Many will go on to community college or a four-year university. This is no easy task for many families. College is expensive. There are steps our schools can take to economize and find efficiencies, and they should. College should be affordable and, at the same time, provide an education that helps our young people get good-paying jobs. This year, the Legislature is stepping up and helping our colleges do just that. There will be additional funding in the budget for all community colleges and four-year universities, as well as a greater investment in scholarships for kids who both need the help and who have earned it.

Most of this report has focused on our financial commitment to education. That’s the Legislature’s job in the process. However, funding is one aspect of a quality education. We can’t get stuck in the mindset that we’ve spent the money and now our job is done. As communities and parents, grandparents, and good neighbors, we all have a responsibility to our kids. That means fostering an environment where education is a priority and our kids are encouraged to go as far as their talents and abilities will take them. Our goal is to bring every Missouri child to his or her greatest potential. Sufficient funding is a part of that, but I would argue that building families and communities where education is valued and celebrated means much more. Together we can build a brighter tomorrow for our children.

As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-1480, or by writing to Sen. David Sater, Missouri State Capitol, Room 416, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

God bless and thank you for the opportunity to work for you in the Missouri Senate.