In November, Missourians found out a really surprising fact about our state: We are really rich. That's right, the state treasury has a surplus of more than $6 billion, thanks to all those COVID-19 government relief funds and revenue growth, reported the Missouri Independent. The outlet predicted that this year's surplus could grow to almost $15 billion. Wow, who could have ever imagined that?
The question of what to do with all that moolah is out there. So I put myself in Governor Parson's shoes and thought about what he's most likely going to do with all this cash. I thought about what he could use it for that would really move the needle in the state for years to come and cement his legacy as governor. The answer is education.
Parson and lawmakers across the political aisle will come together and make a record investment, pouring the greater percentage of that ridiculous surplus into public K-12 education and a somewhat smaller portion into funding higher education, both community colleges and the public universities. To top things off, things will be distributed based on need so the most cash-poor schools in both rural and urban areas get the most dough — but every school district, no matter the socioeconomic status of its students, will benefit.
Within half a school year, Missouri residents will see dramatic effects from that influx. Among the first things that happens is that school districts raise the pay for teachers and for administrators and go on a hiring spree, finally able to attract good talent thanks to that decent pay. Schools can even up their staffing, leading to smaller classroom sizes and all the students getting more attention. Also, districts that had dropped down to a four-day week can go back to five days. Parents everywhere rejoice. Childcare!
Schools are able to buy supplies for classrooms, and teachers stop begging the public to fulfill their wish lists. Classes get this year's textbook. School libraries, freed from funding worries, stop removing books from their shelves.
Then, within a few years, a not-so-mysterious thing happens. Teachers in upper grades stop getting students who can barely read. So instead of focusing on remedial instruction, everyone learns more and better.
More students then go on to college. The average educational attainment in Missouri rises. Big tech companies decide to invest in having branches here. The overall salary rate rises and the cost of living does, too, but we can afford it. We're all doing OK.Welcome to Bold Predictions for 2023, an effort to forecast what the future holds for the St. Louis region.
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