Missouri lawmakers are backing down on a proposal to penalize public universities for failing to meet certain funding and academic goals. Instead, the new legislation considered would only allow performance standards to be used for year-to-year higher education funding increases. Committee chairman and sponsoring Sen. David Pearce, of Warrensburg, says universities should be financially rewarded for achieving performance goals. Under his plan, the universities would work with the department of higher education to develop their own performance criteria. If passed, the plan would be familiar to the state’s four-year public universities. Gov. Jay Nixon used the model informally when he gave them a $25 million increase for the current fiscal year.