Gaming, Tax Reform among ideas for generating revenue for schools
Kentucky’s public schools are seeking a restoration of funding to 2008 levels in the 2014 budget year.
Yes, you read that correctly. Kentucky school districts want to go back to 2008 funding levels. That’s because funding has steadily been decreasing for Kentucky public schools. First, the economic collapse in 2008 caused tough budget years. Then, the legislature faced its own budget challenges because of a failure to address public pension underfunding. So, the Kentucky General Assembly didn’t decrease funding in the SEEK formula, they just left it the same. However, the number of students in Kentucky schools steadily increased over the past five years. Meaning schools and districts are operating on less dollars per pupil than they were just 5 years ago.
In addition to flat SEEK funding, “flexible funds” for schools have actually decreased. So, districts are left to either make up the funds locally (difficult in many rural communities) or, go without. Districts report cutting items like foreign language and school counseling, even eliminating the use of buses for extra-curricular activities.
While districts have so far gotten by, they say that if the trend continues, more serious program cuts are on the way.
For their part, lawmakers have generally sounded unsympathetic, noting they’ve had to balance some tough budgets. Of course, it was the General Assembly that failed to properly fund promised pensions in the past — so, they created the mess they now complain about.
That said, Governor Beshear has talked about both tax reform and expanded gaming as ways to generate revenue to mitigate the state’s budget woes.
Both Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Prichard Committee Executive Director Stu Silberman have been calling for a renewed commitment to proper funding of Kentucky’s schools.
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