Missouri schools wait for fate during budget woes

Missouri schools are bracing themselves for the possibility of more state budget cuts.

Then lawmakers head back to Jefferson City for the new session, they face an estimated $700 million deficit.

The shortfall is due to declining state revenues.

This means tough decisions for lawmakers and uncertainty for school administrators. Most have already made drastic cuts in the classroom and now face even more.

Palmyra Superintendent Eric Churchwell can't help but be nervous these days.

Churchwell said, "The unknown is kind of nerve wracking and you hope that your have planned conservatively to give the best possible education for your kids."

There's uncertainty in the air, as legislators head to Jefferson City to cut hundreds of millions of dollars to balance the state's budget. He's expecting more big cuts to school districts like his. Last year the Palmyra School District made it through a $300 thousand shortfall through cuts and tax increases. With more cuts on the horizon - things will most likely get worse this year. Gaming dollars for education are down and the federal stimulus dollars that helped the funding formula along last year are all dried up. Churchwell says that could make for the worst year yet.

Churchwell said, "Public education is in unchartered waters. I don't think we've hit the bottom yet."

With the possibility of big cuts looming ahead, many school districts like Palmyra look to keep cuts out of the classroom. That means looking at transportation for cost cutting.

But transportation budgets across Missouri have already taken hits on every side. The state of Missouri already cut Palmyra's funding for transportation in half from this year to only picking up 17 percent of the cost providing buses like this to students. Now Governor Jay Nixon says he hopes to avoid cutting basic education funding but that the transportation assistance is "on the watch list" for potential cuts.

Churchwell said, "To say you would eliminate transportation for kids, I don't think you can do that. I think it shifts the burden from state dollars to local dollars. And if you spend local dollars on transportation something else has to go."

Churchwell is already looking at combining and eliminating bus routes to save money.