"We're disappointed in the Supreme Court's ruling," said Dr. John Jungmann, Monett R-1 school superintendent. "It's unsettling that the court found that it's fair to be unfair in so far as per pupil expenditures."
Monett had joined more than 200 school districts in a lawsuit as part of the Committee for Educational Equality, which challenged the way the state distributed money in its Foundation Formula to pay for public schools. In response to the lawsuit, first filed in 2004, the Missouri General Assembly approved its own reform plan, which was still challenged as inadequate by the protesting districts.
"The amount of money paid to districts per pupil ranges from $6,000 to over $20,000," Jungmann said. "It's hard to justify how one district can get a different amount and we call that equal."
Jungmann said the state's expectation that all students receive an equal education seems to fly in the face of how the state distributes funding.
"The court found that as long as the state sets aside 25 percent of its revenues for schools, it doesn't matter if schools are funded equitably," Jungmann said. "The ramifications are if inequality is OK from district to district, what if the difference continues to progress? What does that mean for 10 or 15 years down the road? Can the gap keep growing?"
The Missouri General Assembly's reform of the Foundation Formula is now in its fourth year of a seven-year phase-in. Jungmann said it remains to be seen how fair the fully funded version is going to be.
"The court ruling is not going to stop what we do at Monett R-1," Jungmann said. "We're going to continue supplying the best education we can with the support of our patrons. We're not going to change how we address the needs of our students and the community.
"We will do all we can do to get equitable funding for our students. We feel they are as good as any students across the state," Jungmann added.
The Monett, Pierce City, Purdy and Verona school districts each spent several thousand dollars in support of the Committee for Educational Equity over the course of the litigation.