K-12, higher education at odds over Nixon budget

While the governor’s proposed budget boosts K-12 education, it would significantly cut funding for state universities.

— Appreciation verses angst.

Those two words describe the differing perceptions between leaders of Missouri’s K-12 and higher education institutions of Governor Jay Nixon’s proposed 2013 budget.

Under Nixon’s proposal, higher education would face a 12.5 percent cut in funding — $118 million less than under the current budget. K-12 education, on the other hand, would receive a significant boost to it’s foundation formula.

“If the budget is approved as recommended, it would be the largest amount ever distributed to schools through the foundation formula,” said Missouri education commissioner Chris Nicastro. “This is very significant, especially in light of extraordinary challenges facing members of the General Assembly as they work to balance the budget.”

In his State of the State address this week, Nixon said it is important to fully fund K-12 education simply “because it is the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, Nixon called on state universities to “change their business models” and operate in a more lean and efficient way, without raising tuition.

“Not any way in the world do we have a chance of doing that. It’s not realistic to think in year four of this austerity program that there are easy cuts,” Missouri State University President Clif Smart told the Post-Dispatch. Missouri State is facing a $9.9 million cut.

Steve Owens, president of the University of Missouri system which, between its four universities, faces a $49.8 million cut, said UM may be near a point where an increase in funding may be necessary.

“After a decade of reductions in state support and implementation of operational efficiencies, we are near the point where either the level of funding will have to increase or the scope and quality of services will have to decrease,” Owens said in a statement.

“I think we’re going to see higher tuition rates,” he added.

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