NIXA, Mo. -- Fuzzy math called the Foundation Formula: Missouri schools are waiting in limbo for a decision that may cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Lawmakers in the state capital hold the fate of school funding in their hands. While students are waiting for that final school bell to ring, administrators are preparing their budgets blindly.
Funding for schools has been lacking for years, but lawmakers could make it even worse for some school districts depending on what route they decide to take with the foundation formula.
"Parents, community members, and state legislatures expect more and more and more from teachers and schools and districts," said Ozark Superintendent Gordon Pace, "yet funding has dropped."
"We've got a system that," said Willard Superintendent Kent Medlin," it might not be broken, but there are some real ailments to it."
As the school year winds down, budget talks are heating up.
"We're budgeting; we're trying to get ready for next year," said Nixa Schools Executive Director of Finance Brenda Rantz. "We don't know exactly what exactly the funding will be."
Funding, meanwhile, is up in the air at the state level.
"More students show up every year. You have to have more teachers. You have to have adequate supplies," said Pace.
The current Foundation Formula for schools was created in 2005.
"Lost in that shuffle really has been the fact that this was a seven year phase in the formula," said Pace, "we were promised seven years ago that by year seven it would be fully funded."
That foundation formula isn't being fully funded. For the 2011-2012 school year, schools received only 92% of funding.
"What they did this year was a proration type thing and reduced the funding-which resulted in Nixa being $1.6 million less," said Rantz.
Now the formula could change again. There are five different scenarios making the rounds in Jefferson City.
"What ultimately is going to end up happening is that school districts are going to be pitted against each other," said Rantz.
In one scenario, St. Louis and Kansas City Schools come out on top, with schools in the Ozarks losing big.
In what's called Scenario 2, Springfield stands to lose more than $5.3 million. Buffalo stands to lose more than $234,000. Branson and Reeds Spring lose more than $350,000. It's murky for Joplin as well--they could lose $825,000.
"Many school districts it's a win on one hand and a lose on the other hand," said Dr. Medlin.
The latest scenario is being seen as a compromise. It does the least amount of damage to Southwest Missouri. In fact, it adds revenue to many school districts. While that sounds like a good thing, it's not the whole story.
"It still won't stretch as far as the growth of our southwest Missouri area, particularly in Ozark," said Pace.
"Even though it's additional money, it's not the revenue we are supposed to be getting," said Medlin.
Schools will still not receive the money they were promised years ago. In the midst of it all, students are the ones left behind.
"Are we playing Russian Roulette with our children?" questioned Rantz.
Many school districts rely on school foundations and community support when state funding starts to run dry. However, that crutch is starting to not be enough for some districts. They say times are really going to get tough if funding for schools doesn't increase in the near future.
What happens if the lawmakers can't decide on a scenario? That happened last year. When lawmakers in Jefferson City can't come to a decision, it goes to the Department of Education. Last year they decided that schools would get 92% of the funding they were supposed to. There is some hope that schools could get 94% if it comes down to a decision by DESE, but that's not set in stone. It could be less.