State Education Funding in Crisis: Missouri Risks Its Future

Mar 3, 2011 by

Kids_factory_Hine Even as Congress debates on whether to proceed with more than $4 billion in education funding cuts proposed this in year's federal budget bill, states across the U.S. continue to slash local education funding in the name of balancing struggling state budgets.

As mentioned in our latest MOMocrats MOMochat podcast on Blog Talk Radio, in Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon — a Democrat — recently proposed millions of dollars in cuts to state education funding, including $39 million in cuts to scholarships and financial aid for college students, a seven percent cut in general funding to state universities (which will result in the elimination of up to 116 degree programs), a $4 million cut to the Parents as Teachers early childhood education program, and a myriad of other cuts at every education level.

These latest cuts would mark the third straight year of drastic cuts to education funding in the state of Missouri. Parents as Teachers already lost more than $3 million in state funding last year; state universities have already laid off hundreds of employees. Local public school districts have also taken drastic measures to deal with funding gaps.

In the past month alone in Missouri, a cash-strapped rural district resorted to approving a four day school week, several others reported their boards are considering the same move. A school district in middle-class, suburban St. Charles cut 95 teaching and administrative jobs, gutting its gifted education program. Last year, the already struggling St. Louis City school district — which lost its accreditation from the state board of education a few years ago due to poor performance, and has yet to regain it — cut nearly 400 jobs in response to a funding shortfall.

In this tough economy, nearly every state in the nation has lost significant revenue due to a steep decline in income from sales and property taxes. And Missouri has not been spared — if no changes are made to the state's current budget, Missouri could face a budget shortfall in 2012 of just over a billion dollars. So certainly, budget belt tightening seems necessary.

But, economically speaking, education is one of the worst areas for a state to make spending cuts during a financial crisis.

Cuts to school funding have an immediate negative economic impact on middle class families. High school graduates may find themselves suddenly unable to afford college. Parents with children in public preschools that shut down may have to pay for a private alternative. Parents of children with special needs may have to seek private services once schools cut early intervention programs. A full-time working parent may have to take a pay cut in exchange for shorter hours or pay out of pocket for child care if a school switches to a four-day week.

Parents who have to spend more money on childcare and educational services for their children have less money to spend on groceries, cars, homes, and the types of consumer transactions that drive a healthy economy. When high school graduates miss out on college, the state misses a chance to capitalize on the innovation and expertise well-trained workers bring to the job market. 

But the long-term economic price of cuts in education spending is even costlier. Studies show quality public education programs provide a better return on investment than amost any other government program.

For example, a recent study by The National Institutes of Health that followed participants from infancy until age 26 found that early childhood education programs in Chicago produced a return of $4-$11 for every taxpayer dollar spent. Students who received a quality early education experience were less likely to need costly academic intervention in their later years, less likely to commit crimes, more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to go to college, and earned a higher income as adults than their peers with no access to early childhood education.

The Pew Center on the States has similarly found that early childhood education programs provide an average return on investment of $5.70 per dollar spent.

In other words, the cuts the state of Missouri makes to eary childhood education programs like Parents as Teachers today may eventually wind up costing the state more than five times the amount those cuts will temporarily save.

Which hardly sounds like logical fiscal planning.

But, don't fret, Missourians — Republican State Senator Jane Cunningham has a plan to fix the pesky problem of what to do with an entire generation of kids who will be left ill-prepared for the economy of the futureby today's drastic cuts in education funding: She has a bill in the works to repeal most of Missouri's child labor laws, allowing children under 14 to work without a permit and without restrictions on their work hours.

After all, if a Missouri kid can legally get a full-time factory job at age seven, who needs school?


Photo Credit: Bibb Mill No. 1 Macon, Ga., 1909, by Lewis Hine

Related Posts


Share This

1 Comment

  1. Hello,

    I call BS.

    It looks like you didn't even read what you linked to and then made specious statements from your false premises.

    The USA Today article you linked to (and NOT the actual study) reluctantly mentioned that parent choice and involvement played a role in these inner city children. I know from other studies show that parental involvement is the primary indicator of success, not the amount of money spent. (

    I do believe there are gains in pre-K programs, but those gains are wiped out later from the socialization process (no thanks to Dewey's disciples) in government run schools. We have spent an dramatically increasing amount of money for NO increase in test scores or graduation rates. (

    That is a NEGATIVE INVESTMENT for those grades.

    This shows a fundamental problem with public education that has nothing to do with money.

    I believe school vouchers programs are one way of providing a lower cost and higher quality education. This mechanism gives parents economic freedom to chose and really be involved with their children's education.

    It's success in places like the inner city Washington DC have been shown. Yet that program was canceled. Why? Politics and power, not the best interests of children.

    We now have an amount of spending at the local, state, and federal level that is UNSUSTAINABLE. We can't do what we're doing anymore and there is no bailout for the United States.

    We are going to have to cut back dramatically (much more than the recent agreement in DC) and unfortunately that will hurt people dependent on the government teat.

    My church and civic groups have stepped up their community assistance. I am donating even more time and money to the needs around me. This is what was in place before government took over charity work.

    What happens if our economic system fails? MANY more people will be hurt in the aftermath. This will reach worldwide. Case in point. The billions of dollars of foreign and domestic money we lost in the mortgage bust.

    Now for the Missouri bill that you DID NOT read.

    I read it. It removes the age limitation for children working in the ENTERTAINMENT industry and details out safe working conditions. It also makes sure they still receive an education. It PROHIBITS children under 16 to work in unsafe conditions and describes examples of unsafe work environments.

    So no seven year old factory worker smelting pig iron here in Missouri. Sorry to bust your bubble about those "meanie" Republicans.

    You started strong in your post, but your incomplete and juvenile thought process permeates throughout. I challenge you to think and rely on realities (economic and otherwise) and not repeating the fantasy of Democratic Party (or Republican) talking points. Think for yourself!

    Unfortunately I believe that you got to your political ideology through subjective emotional means and not reality, so facts won't change your mind. It's called Normalcy Bias. I hope that you can overcome this obstacle in your life.


    Disclaimer – I excelled in a private school after failing in a public high school despite parental involvement. My Dad and I have both taught at Missouri University and my Mom has had her Missouri teaching certificate for many years. Her last job was at a private learning center helping failing students from the public schools. Her students gained two to three grade levels in forty contact hours.