2012 General Assembly

Education budget cuts would delay overhaul of curriculum and testing

Curriculum, testing overhauls cited

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comFebruary 1, 2012 

Terry Holliday, Kentucky Commissioner of Education

FRANKFORT — The state's top education leaders told a legislative panel Wednesday that proposed budget cuts to the Department of Education would delay implementation of new standards that were part of a 2009 overhaul of Kentucky's education system.

Terry Holliday, commissioner of the Department of Education, told a House budget subcommittee that cuts proposed under Gov. Steve Beshear's two-year budget also would mean less money for teacher professional development and less money for technology assistance for local school districts. There also would be no new state money to help some schools that have been deemed low-performing schools.

Beshear's proposed budget does not include cuts to the main funding formula for schools, Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK). However, other parts of the education budget would be cut, including an 8.4 percent cut to administration and technology and a 4.5 percent cut to instruction, assessment and curriculum programs and to the Kentucky School for the Blind and the Kentucky School for the Deaf.

Although the state has not cut the SEEK formula in recent years, growing student populations mean the state is spending less money per pupil. Since 2008, other parts of the education department budget have been cut about 22 percent, or $98 million, said Hiren Desai, associate commissioner for the department.

There has been no new money for textbooks in four years, Holliday said.

In 2009, the state passed Senate Bill 1, which proposed wide-ranging changes to how the state tests key core subject areas. The state already has implemented new core standards for English/language arts and math.

"We will not be able to move forward in science and social studies standards," Holliday told lawmakers.

The state also would not be able to add testing of core English and math standards in additional grade levels, he said.

Also, cuts would mean no new money to help train teachers on core standards, Desai told the committee.

The agency had requested an additional $13.3 million over the next two years for low-performing schools, or schools that do not meet key standards. However, that request was not placed in Beshear's budget proposal. That means many low-performing schools that do not qualify for federal assistance will not receive additional money, school officials said.

Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, said he knows of a school that was designated as low-performing but received no additional money to make needed changes.

"We need to do something," he said. "We need to provide the resources to turn around these low-performing schools."

To absorb an 8.4 percent cut to its administrative offices, the Department of Education would implement a hiring freeze, Desai said. The department has 526 employees, down from 624 in 2008.

The legislature has until mid-April to pass a two-year budget.

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