Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Monday he will restrict $209 million in planned spending for June, largely affecting higher and K-12 education.
Parson has already restricted more than $220 million due to budget constraints during the coronavirus, but he said withholding more now will hopefully allow for fewer cuts in the next fiscal year that begins in July.
“It is important to make these decisions now so school districts can adjust before next year’s school year,” said Parson. “Our intent is to withhold now and avoid withholds once school begins.”
Of the $209 million in restricted spending, $131 million is coming from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and $41 million is coming from the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.
Parson waived a statute that allows some schools a “hold harmless” status preventing them from being affected by budget cuts. This means all schools, including charters, will be affected. It’s unclear what this will mean for different school districts across the state.
“Some districts count on state dollars more heavily than others,” saidstate education Director Margie Vandeven. “This will rest with local decisions … making those really, really hard decisions.”
As for higher education, the cuts announced on Monday are 100% of the June payment that higher education institutions were expecting to receive, according to Zora Mulligan, the commissioner of higher education.
Federal funding will provide some relief for K-12 education; a majority of Missouri schools are expected to receive a total of $187 million. However, the money for higher education had less flexibility in what it could be used for. For example, half of the funding was given directly to students and could not be used for institutional purposes, according to Mulligan.
“What remained had to be used for restricted purposes that were very important in meeting the short-term crisis that was presented by the coronavirus, but it specifically could not be for staff salaries,” she said.
Parson said the Office of Administration, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Health and Senior Services, and the Department of Social Services will also receive cuts in funding.
Protests and unrest
Prior to announcing the spending cuts, Parson condemned the killing of George Floyd that is sparking protests across Missouri and the rest of the nation.
He recognized the right to peacefully protest but also spoke out against those who are looting stores, damaging property and endangering lives.
“This violence not only threatens public safety, it drowns out the voices of the peaceful demonstrators calling for justice and working to improve our nation,” he said.
Parson signed an executive order on Saturday activating the Missouri National Guard to assist authorities in communities across the state. He is not providing guidance to law enforcement or the National Guard on when to begin detaining individuals if protests turn violent. He said, “That’s their call to make.”
Parson, a former Polk County sheriff, did not address whether there is a need for reform in law enforcement or suggest any statewide policy changes. He also would not say whether there are systemic problems between police and African Americans.
“I think 99% of the officers out there, at least, are doing their jobs, doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” said Parson. “Are there bad actors out there? Yes. There always have been.”