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Budget cuts top discussion of educational leaders



Lt Gov. Peter KinderMissouri's education and government leaders discuss critical issues for K-12 and higher education  

“The MU College of Education is one of the finest colleges of education in the nation,” said MU Chancellor Brady Deaton during a meeting of the MU Partnership for Educational Renewal (MPER).  “The College continues to address tough educational issues in a transparent way.”

In an open dialogue held at the spring meeting of the MPER Governing Board, superintendents from MPER’s network of 22 member school districts met with Lt. Governor Peter Kinder and Deaton to address questions about today’s struggling economy and potential cuts in government funding for education.

“Education at all levels is one of the most profound investments an individual or a family can make,” Deaton said.  

However, existing levels of state investment in K-12 and higher education may not be met due to potential budget cuts. According to Kinder, funding for K-12 education has not decreased for the last eight years while higher education has taken a $100 million cut.

Jim Ritter, interim superintendent of Columbia Public Schools addresses his district's needs during the MPER Governing Board meeting held February 3, 2009. Jefferson City Superintendent Bert Kimble and Columbia Interim Superintendent Jim Ritter were among the many superintendents to attend the meeting.

“We’re certainly interested in a number of issues that are going on at the state level regarding elementary and secondary education," Ritter said. "But we’re also all very interested in higher education and the impact of any cuts that might come their way.

Ritter said the Columbia School district eliminated 80 positions last year after the city failed to pass a 54-cent tax levy increase, and they are now looking to cut an additional 75 positions.

In the nearby community of Centralia, Superintendent Darin Ford said that their tax levy has helped to maintain staffing levels within the schools.   However, Ford asserted that student learning is not only tied to district resources but also to social services and community resources which may suffer from state budget cuts.

The meeting concluded with Deaton thanking the group for its candid appraisal on the condition of education in Missouri.  “It is critical that we continue this dialogue and to address funding, organizational strategies and societal issues around education,” he said.