Despite facing some tough budget choices this spring, state leaders appear to be heading toward a consensus that education will be spared significant cuts.

Despite facing some tough budget choices this spring, state leaders appear to be heading toward a consensus that education will be spared significant cuts.


Let’s hope so. There is no area where the phrase “penny wise, pound foolish” is more apt than in cuts to education.


Still, some lawmakers say Gov. Jay Nixon is trying to have it both ways by proposing a modest overall increase in education funding and specifically keeping the Career Ladder, which pays teachers more for work such as tutoring.


Not every school district uses the program, but those in Eastern Jackson County do, and local officials have expressed concern about the state’s commitment to it. For example, teachers are doing that work right now under contracts they have already signed. The state picks up about half of the cost, but what if legislators pull the rug out from under those districts by cutting that funding in the budget they’ll pass in May? That would be unfortunate – and costly to local taxpayers.


Of course, it’s not that simple. Nixon’s proposed budget raises spending on public education to $3.02 billion, but that’s about $87 million shy of the formula Republicans came up with five years ago to make annual increases to basic school funding. Separate from that general funding formula, however, is the $37.5 million Career Ladder program.


Sen. Gary Nodler, an influential Republican from Joplin, says, “We’ve basically robbed Peter to pay Paul in public education.”


It’s a fair point, but it’s also fair to say programs such as Career Ladder make a lot of sense. Effective tutoring can be a crucial link in a child’s continued success and continued interest in school.


Big picture: State government has cut more than 1,200 jobs in the last year and is looking at another 500 cuts. That’s been forced by a continued drop in state revenues, mainly income and sales taxes. It is no small feat to hold the line on school funding. Cuts have to fall somewhere. Career Ladder doesn’t seem like a good candidate.