Fewer school days. Fewer art and music programs. Reductions in career and technical education. More fees for students and their parents to pay.
In a new survey, Kentucky’s school superintendents report all of these as ways that state budget cuts already are stretching school districts thin and hurting classrooms and kids.
Further cuts could force even more significant reductions in educational programs and services, layoffs or even school closings, according to the report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk told the Herald-Leader that “the report is timely and further underscores the inescapable fact that Kentucky’s schools are woefully underfunded and have been for years.”
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“The wounds inflicted by cuts to education never heal and they compound over the time a child spends in school. Reductions in services to our most vulnerable students, classroom supports and instructional materials hurt the very children who need us most,” Caulk said.
The Center’s survey of Kentucky school districts found that since 2008:
▪ 54 percent of surveyed districts have fewer days in the school calendar.
▪ 35 percent of districts have reduced or eliminated art and music programs.
▪ 14 percent of districts have reduced special education services for reasons related to cost.
▪ 25 percent of districts have reduced career and technical education.
▪ 35 percent of districts have started using or increased instructional fees, and 34 percent have added or increased fees for extracurricular activities.
Through the survey of Kentucky’s school district officials, including superintendents, and review of other state data, the report shows how past cuts have translated into fewer course offerings, reductions in services, fewer staff and cuts in employee compensation, costs being passed along to parents, and fewer instructional days.
The report said that Kentucky’s per-student, inflation adjusted cuts to its core funding formula — SEEK — since 2008 are the third worst in the nation. And state funding for textbooks, professional development and extended school services have been cut by about 20 percent each since 2008 — even before inflation is taken into account.
A Kentucky Center for Economic Policy analysis has said that Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget proposal for 2019 would cut funding for K-12 education by $198 million or 4.8 percent. The proposal would cut about $138 million for student transportation in school districts.
“For years now the state has pushed more funding responsibility to local school districts, many of whom have difficulty raising adequate revenue through increasing local taxes,” Ashley Spalding, the report’s author, said. “School districts have already cut staff, reduced program offerings and implemented other cost-cutting measures. More cuts threaten school quality across the state.”
The survey also found that:
▪ 30 percent of districts had special course offerings funded by the district in 2008 that were no longer funded in 2017.
▪ 42 percent of districts have reduced student supports such as after-school, summer school and intervention/enrichment services.
▪ 25 percent of districts are spending less on health services.
Districts report being unable to give raises and provide funding for instructional materials such as textbooks — as well as providing adequate funding for transportation, facilities and maintenance.
Fleming County Superintendent Brian Creasman said the report shows there is a disconnect in Kentucky over the role that stronger education plays in improving the economy,
“Our legislators and governor must realize that to become the ‘engineering epicenter’ and to create high paying jobs, we must have a highly skilled workforce,” Creasman said. “A long-term strategy must include funding education above the usual SEEK amounts that has been stagnant for nearly a decade. As a Commonwealth, we fail to realize that when we fail to invest in students, we fail to invest in a key player that will strengthen our state's long-term economy. ... High-paying jobs that would dramatically improve the lives of thousands in Kentucky are not locating here if we do not invest in our students — because they lack 21st-century workforce skills as a result of critical programs being cut in public education over the past decade.”
The sample of districts responding to the survey represents more than 74 percent of Kentucky students. The sample is representative in terms of geography, district size and per-student property assessments which is a measurement of district wealth. The report also analyzed data from the Kentucky Department of Education.
The report can be found at Kypolicy.org/state-budget-cuts-education-hurt-kentuckys-classrooms-kids/