The House Budget Committee this week unveiled its version of the appropriations bills that will make up the Fiscal Year 2019 state operating budget. The bills include some key changes from the recommendations made by the governor.
One such change calls for the K-12 School Foundation Formula to be fully funded. The Governor has called for a $50 million increase to spending for elementary and secondary education. The house budget proposal would add another $48 million to the Governor’s funding recommendation for an increase of $98 million above the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriation level. The extra $48 million comes from a promise made by lawmakers in 2014; they passed a law to fund early childhood education when they fully funded the Foundation Formula.
Because of uncertainty with the Children’s Health Insurance Program at the federal level, the Budget Committee took a fiscally responsible approach last year by opting to protect Missouri’s at-risk children without relying on federal funds. Now that funding for the program has been extended through Fiscal Year 2023, there are approximately $80 million in state revenues available for use in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.
The House Budget Committee is recommending that a portion of these funds be used to restore the Governor’s recommended core cuts to higher education. Right now, House leaders are working with the state’s institutions of higher learning to ensure tuition isn’t raised for students and families if some higher education funding can be restored.
The Governor has announced a “rural growth plan” to use the newly available ($80 million) to expand broadband, water projects, river ports and biodiesel plants. I certainly want our district to have faster internet service. Broadband infrastructure is going to be critical for our district and has certainly been one of my priorities. There will be a lot of perspectives on this budget and some tough votes. The House will start these difficult budget decisions the last week of March.
Increasing STEM Career Awareness (HB 1623)
We took time last week to observe the state’s annual STEM Day, and this week took action by approving legislation that would establish a statewide program designed to promote careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The bill would require the state Department of Economic Development to establish the STEM Career Awareness Program for students in grades six through eight. The program would involve curriculum that would raise awareness of more than eighty different careers.
I supported this legislation and think it is critical to promote the importance of STEM careers in order to support the economies of our state and the nation. I think a lack of awareness of STEM fields is what is keeping many young people from pursuing careers in these areas.