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New School Year, Tough Choices for KY Districts

Policy experts say the per-student funding gap between Kentucky's poorest and wealthiest school districts continues to grow. (Pixabay)
Policy experts say the per-student funding gap between Kentucky's poorest and wealthiest school districts continues to grow. (Pixabay)
August 20, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The school day might look a little different for Kentucky kids this year, as districts figure out how to function with fewer dollars.

Senior Policy Analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Ashley Spalding explained that for more than a decade, in order to make room for tax cuts, state legislators and the governor slashed funding for pre-k through 12 education. And, with inflation, it's a 14 percent cut in total SEEK dollars per student between 2008 and 2019.

As a result, she said, districts are facing difficult choices.

"Kids might be in larger classes, they might not have the support services that they need. Some schools were having fewer instructional days,” Spalding said. “Lot of cuts to personnel, not enough money for textbooks, not enough money for repairs to buildings - that can really affect kids' health."

SEEK is the core funding in Kentucky for pre-k through grade 12 education.

As the parent of a child in preschool, Robert Olivam of Louisville said he's worried about how cuts today will impact schools down the road.

"Kentucky generally ranks fairly low in terms of various education outcomes, and it's unlikely that we will turn that around by decreasing education funding,” Olivam said. “So I’m very concerned knowing that it will take a number of years to right the ship, so to speak."

Spalding added that adequate school funding is crucial for academic success and positive outcomes, and cuts are impacting the state's ability to address achievement gaps.

"The per-student funding gap between Kentucky's poorest and wealthiest school districts continues to grow,” Spalding said. “These cuts in state funding put pressure on local school districts to make up the difference, and the poorer school districts are in less of a position to be able to make up the difference."

Kentucky was ranked third worst among states last year in per-student cuts to core funding, and Spaulding said the new state budget does not include a meaningful increase to SEEK funding for 2019. More information is available at KYPolicy.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY