MBC minister plays key role in passage of new school funding formula bill
By Barbara Shoun
May 17, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY — Rewriting the school funding formula was one of the most contentious issues to come before the Missouri General Assembly this session and its successful passage can be attributed in large part to a Missouri Southern Baptist minister who navigated the formula bill through some rough political waters.
“Everyone has something they want,” said Rep. Brian Baker, R-Belton, chairman of the Special Committee on Education Funding and the “point person” in helping steer the complex piece of legislation through the House of Representatives.
“We’ve tried to come up with a formula based on student need and student achievement, not on what you ought to be able to pay.”
Baker’s priority has been to provide equality in state funding, something he feels the General Assembly accomplished following a marathon debate in the House that ended at 3:30 a.m. on May 11 with passage of the new school funding formula bill. A final bill for the governor’s signature was later reached after House and Senate leaders compromised on each of their versions.
“The main formula does follow, pretty much, what the governor said he would support,” Baker told the Jefferson City Post-Tribune following the House vote. “We calculate that each student is worth $6,117.”
Prior to the May 11 House debate, Baker told his colleagues, “This funding model is both equitable and adequate. We may not be able to make everyone happy, but we have created a formula that meets student need.”
The give-and-take of politics always intensifies toward the end of the session, but Baker says his faith gives him peace.
“I’m always and foremost a pastor. That is my first calling,” said Baker, assistant pastor at Heartland Family Ministries in Belton, an Missouri Baptist Convention church, where his father, David Baker, is pastor.
“I serve the state, but I have to make sure that what I do here is representative of my calling as a pastor,” he says. “People are asking for things every day, but my faith keeps me calm.”
Baker first ran for public office in November of 2000 when he was elected to the Belton City Council. He was later approached about running for the Missouri House of Representatives by two men whom he respected, so he asked the deacons of his church for their counsel. They prayed about it and voted unanimously to advise him to run. Baker won the 2002 election and is now in his second term.
For the past two years, Baker served as chairman of the House Education Committee, a responsibility which gave him the opportunity to work on various education issues and develop working relationships with educators around the state. As a result, House Speaker Rod Jetton tapped him to head up the new foundation formula effort.
“Scripture is clear that we need to be good stewards of our money,” Baker said. “We should take care of what God gives us and be responsible for it.”