Missouri lawmakers approved a budget plan Thursday that cuts spending on public colleges and universities while providing enough basic aid to K-12 schools to meet funding goals called for under state law.
The proposal — due Friday to Gov. Eric Greitens — would increase basic aid for public elementary and secondary schools by roughly $48 million to a total of nearly $3.4 billion and hit funding goals outlined in state law for the first time since fiscal year 2009, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman Sarah Potter said in an email.
Greitens recommended a slight increase, but his plan would have fallen about $45 million short of the law's funding target.
House Democrats noted that lawmakers last year lowered the target called for under state law. Minority Caucus Chairman Rep. Michael Butler, a St. Louis Democrat, said basic aid "is capped to not really fill the entire disparity between rich and poor districts."
Still, he and other House Democrats praised the increase included in the final budget, which Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick also touted.
"I know you guys have to find ways to make less of a win, but I do think it is a win," he told Democratic colleagues on the House floor.
Lawmakers also spared money for school busing that Greitens had recommended cutting by about $25 million compared to this fiscal year.
Work to craft a budget for the fiscal year beginning in July comes amid lagging revenues this year that led Greitens and his Democratic predecessor, Jay Nixon, to cut a combined $350 million in spending.
While money for public elementary and secondary was protected, public higher education institutions fared worse.
Legislators approved a 6.6 percent cut in core funding for colleges and universities, although Greitens had recommended a nearly 10 percent cut.
The higher education budget proposal also seeks to force public colleges and universities to charge international tuition to students without lawful immigration status and bans scholarships for those students.