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Costing Out

Historical Background

In 1990, school districts, students, and taxpayers filed lawsuits and later consolidated, claiming that Missouri's school finance system violated the state constitution's equal protection and education clauses on both "equity" and "adequacy" grounds. The Committee for Educational Equality, a non-profit group, originally organized in a rural part of the state, built an alliance of rural and urban low-wealth school districts. The St. Louis and Kansas City School Districts joined the litigation as intervenor-plaintiffs and four property-wealthy school districts joined as intervenor-defendants.

The trial court, in Committee for Educational Equality v. State, No. CV190-1371CC, slip op. (Cir. Ct. Cole County January 1993), declared the funding system unconstitutional and held that the state must provide the same educational opportunity to children living in rich and poor districts. In response to the circuit court decision, the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed the Outstanding Schools Act of 1993, which increased school funding by raising taxes, improved funding equity, and instituted education reforms such as standards and assessments.

Committee for Educational Equality (CEE) v. State

In January 2004, the re-constituted Committee for Educational Equality filed an equity and adequacy lawsuit against the state, claiming that over the years, the Missouri education finance system had again become unconstitutional, and that students were being harmed by underfunding of essential resources, such as teachers, courses and programs, and facilities and equipment. In 2007, their constitutional challenge Committee for Educational Equality (CEE) v. State, was rejected by Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan. He ruled against defendants’ argument that school funding is a political issue that “should be left to the discretion of the legislative and executive branches of government,” instead stating, “judicial review of legislative enactments is central to our system of checks and balances and this Court declines defendants’ invitation to avoid” that responsibility. Nevertheless, the Circuit Court held that the state constitution only requires that at least 25% of state revenues be used to fund public schools and that the state was in compliance with that mandate.

In September 2009, the Missouri Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ claim that the states school funding formula is unconstitutionally disparate and inadequate. The plaintiffs in Committee for Educational Equality v. State of Missouri included more than half of the school districts in the state. In ruling against them, the Court affirmed the Circuit Court's reasoning. The 25% minimum level of funding delineated in Art IX, § 3(b) of the state constitution defines "adequacy," the Court held, and plaintiffs’ attempt to read an additional adequacy requirement into the general constitutional requirement that the state “establish and maintain free public schools” because a “general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence [is] essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people” Mo. Const, Art IX, § 1(a), was rejected.

Constitutional Provisions

The Missouri Constitution, Article IX, states that:

A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the general assembly shall establish and maintain free public schools in this state within ages not excess of twenty-one years as prescribed by law.

Another section of Article IX states that:

[I]n no case shall there be set apart less than twenty-five percent of the state revenue…to be applied annually to the support of the free public schools.

Costing Out

In 2003, a coalition of education, business and philanthropic organizations released the results of a costing-out study commissioned to determine an adequate funding level for Missouri schools. The calculated $7,449 per-pupil amount (in 2001-02 dollars) totals over $900 million and includes funding for "at-risk" students, but does not include facilities or transportation.

Last updated November, 2009