JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster and Republican former Navy SEAL officer Eric Greitens will face off Nov. 8 in Missouri’s gubernatorial election. The Associated Press asked the candidates about funding for education in a phone interview. Here’s how they responded:
Q: Missouri’s current school funding formula is not fully funded. Do you support lawmakers’ recent action to redefine the foundation formula so that the state can spend less but still meet the target for fully funding schools?
KOSTER: “No. The Legislature chose not to move the ball toward the goal line but rather chose to bring the goal line toward the ball. I think that that is another step in a series of broken promises toward Missouri’s children. It leaves us at a point where we are approximately $70-to-$100 million, I guess, underfunded in public education. The recent withholds complicate that equation even further. One of my top priorities as governor will be to fully fund the foundation formula as quickly as possible.”
GREITENS: “The fact is we have to get better results for our kids in the state of Missouri, but unlike liberal career politicians like Chris Koster, I know that spending more money does not necessarily guarantee more results. The fact is, when you look around the state of Missouri, there’s some outstanding school districts like the Leopold R-3 School District in southeast Missouri that spends about $8,000 per attendee. St. Louis public schools spend almost $15,000 per attendee and have far worse results. What we need to do is to focus on getting results. We also need to make sure that more of our education dollars are actually being spent in the classroom. Missouri actually is at or above the national average in the amount of money that we spend on education, but we’re some of the lowest in the country on teacher pay. We need to make sure that our money is actually in the classroom where it can make a difference for the kids of the state of Missouri.”
Q: Missouri currently has a cap on tuition increases for public universities. Should this be expanded to also include all fees?
KOSTER: “I am open to examining that question. I have been concerned for some time that the 13 universities are attempting to circumvent the restriction on tuition increases by hiding cost increases inside the university’s fee structure. That having been said, I think that a blanket prohibition may be too broad, and so I would look forward to sitting down with legislative leaders and university administrators to maintain the spirit of the university tuition restrictions by coming up with a sensible expansion of them that reaches into the fee-structure arena.”
GREITENS: “The problem with education in the state of Missouri is that we’ve been doing the same thing over and over again. That’s true on K-12 education and it’s also true on higher education. We need to have a governor who has a vision for where we need to take the state. When it comes to K-12 education my vision is that we need every kid that graduates high school in the state of Missouri either ready to go to college without need for remediation or with a certification that can ensure that they’ve got a path to a good-paying job. When it comes to higher education, we need to make sure that any kid who wants to go to school in the state of Missouri is able to get a world-class education in any subject somewhere in the state of Missouri.
“We’ve got far too much money right now that’s been spent on administration and bureaucracy instead of being spent on world-class research, outstanding teaching and making sure that every graduate in the state of Missouri is able to get a quality job when they graduate from college. That’s why I think it’s essential that we build a plan to make sure that we’re going to be able to offer that world-class education in the state of Missouri, and then we’ll look at every mechanism to make sure that we’re funding that appropriately.”