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By Katelyn Brown December 26, 2017

Governor's spokesman fudges on education funding, performance

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens likes to talk about education, often critically.

Greitens’ press secretary, Parker Briden, said funding has increased for K-12 schools.

"It is one of our missions to create better schools," Briden told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Nov. 13. "You hear us talking about it all the time. We’ve seen funding increases for schools. We haven’t seen a corresponding performance increase."

With funding cuts coming to a lot of areas from Greitens’ budget, especially higher education, we wanted to see whether Briden’s statement was true.

The funding

Briden did not respond to our questions, so we decided to start by looking at the general operating budget for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

For fiscal year 2016, $5.8 billion went to the department. This was about an $88 million increase from 2015.

The budget in 2017, showed an increase from 2016’s total to about $5.9 billion. This increase happened despite about a $13 million decrease to the the portion of federal funds for the department.

For Greitens’ first budget, fiscal year 2018, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education saw an increase to about $6.03 billion. So, on face value, there has been an overall increase in general funding for schools over the past few years.

The budget just lists the funding for the department. The actual appropriations bill is what breaks it down, and it’s clear that not all of the $6.03 billion goes directly to the kids.

Traci Gleason, director of communication and public engagement at the Missouri Budget Project, points out that the cost of educating students fluctuates .

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"While an appropriation may technically be higher, without being increased for inflation as well, the value of that increase diminishes. For instance, for schools, the costs of their supplies, teacher salaries, maintenance, etc., go up, so increases need to take that into account," she said.

A dollar in 2015, when the 2016 budget was passed, is equal to $1.06 today. That means to keep pace with the $5.8 billion granted to K-12 education in fiscal year 2016, the 2018 budget would need to allot $6.15 billion. So, on an inflation-adjusted basis, the money allocated is less than it was three years ago.

Student Performance

Briden said there has not been a performance increase to match the funding increase. So we looked at data for student performance on standardized tests.

Sarah Potter, the communications coordinator for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said Briden is wrong.

Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, is the primary measure for K-12 schools in Missouri.

MAP scores actually increased in all content areas between 2016 and 2017. English language arts saw a 1 percent increase, math saw a 1.4 percent increase, science saw a 2.1 percent increase, and American government saw a 1.7 percent increase.

Potter said the governor’s office is referring to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, in which the state went up in two measures and down in two measures between 2011 and 2015. But this data is older, and new results won’t be out until February.

Our ruling

Parker Briden, the governor’s press secretary, said, "We’ve seen funding increases for schools. We haven’t seen a corresponding performance increase."

While state funding has increased, it’s not keeping up with inflation. Meanwhile, student scores on the MAP test have increased. The results of a national test are mixed, not down, and in any case are outdated.

We rate this statement Mostly False.

Our Sources

St. Louis Post-Dispatch article from Nov. 13

PDF showing Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget for Missouri

Comparison of budget totals by state department for Fiscal Year 2017

House Bill No. 2 on education funding

Missouri Budget Project report on K-12 education 

Email correspondence with Traci Gleason, Director of Communications and Public Engagement for the Missouri Budget Project, Dec. 7, 2017

Success Ready Metrics PDF on DESE website

Email correspondence with Sarah Potter, Communications Director of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Dec. 12, 2017

Consumer Price Index calculator at Bureau of Labor Statistics website

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Governor's spokesman fudges on education funding, performance

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