Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said Wednesday some school districts could be financially insolvent if the General Assembly approves Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget cuts to K-12 education, totaling $220 million.
Overall, Pruitt said, “The kinds of cuts we are dealing with ... is going to impact the operation and outright instruction for our kids.”
But Pruitt told reporters after a legislative K-12 budget subcommittee meeting that he thought members of the General Assembly and the governor had the best interests of Kentucky’s kids at heart, and he was confident “that at the end of the day we are going to see some of these things restored.”
“I don’t know what they will be or to what extent but I do believe that historically Kentucky has been committed to education. I believe historically we see that as a moral imperative,” Pruitt said.
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Pruitt and Kentucky Department of Education staff told members of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education and Workforce Development specifically how the executive branch budget bill, House Bill 200, would affect Kentucky schools and students.
In 2017, K-12 education took a cut of $6.7 million and in this fiscal year, took a $20.5 million reduction. Those cuts were made in instructional resources, professional development and family resource and youth centers and organizations that supported schools, officials said.
Charlie Harman, Director of the Division of Budget and Financial Management, said the current budget is $4.1 billion, and House Bill 200 is recommending $3.89 billion for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Of the $220 million in cuts, about $138 million is SEEK Transportation funds that districts will absorb. The SEEK formula is the foundational funding formula for K-12 education and includes funding for special needs students as well as transportation to and from school. Millions would be reduced for support for curriculum and programs, and technology.
“With all these cuts that are happening, it’s going to affect our ability to provide assistance to districts,” Harman said.
Overall, Bevin’s budget proposal would eliminate 70 programs , and 19 are in the K-12 budget at a cost of approximately $39.3 million, Harman said. Some are for professional development for teachers, others are educational programs.
Local school districts are trying to juggle many operational and fiscal issues right now that they will have to find extra money for, said Robin Kinney, Associate Commissioner of the Office of Finance and Operations,
“Will they be able to overcome it?” she said. “How do we fund all of these important things?”
“In my judgment, this (proposed) budget is really the state retreating from public education,” State Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, a member of the budget subcommittee said at the meeting. “Communities that have a strong school have a strong community. When we retreat from that, we are retreating from our communities.”