The Fayette County Board of Education is looking in the 2015-16 budget for ways to close the reading and math achievement gap between minority, low income or disabled students and other students.
Board members additionally are looking for ways they can focus the budget on helping English language learners, funding early childhood programs, and helping low-performing schools and students with mental health issues.
"We're exploring the options on how we might pay for those things," chairman John Price said in an interview Thursday.
The Fayette Equity Council has been pushing for years for the board to make closing the achievement gap a priority and put money behind it.
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Creating district supports for attention to mental health issues was in a top 10 list of priorities that the equity council set in 2014.
Kyna Koch, the district's administrative services director, presented budget information at a school board work session Monday. An internal budget group at Central Office is trying to come up with options to give the board.
District officials are trying to find areas in which to save so they will have money to put toward issues such as closing the achievement gap and helping low-achieving schools.
"At this point, we really have almost nothing to put toward them. But we are digging and we are digging deep," Koch said at the Monday meeting.
It's likely that savings will have to come from the Central Office budget, Koch said. She gave school board members data on various categories' costs at Central Office.
Board members asked for more details for their next meeting on the budget.
In the budget, the district wants to add teachers for English language learners at an average annual cost of $58,500 each.
In terms of budget issues for 2015-16, early district projections indicate an additional $11.7 million in the budget. About $9.7 million of that would have to be spent on salary adjustments required by state law and on a payment to the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System.
That would give the board about $2 million to spend on issues that could include the achievement gap.
In addition, officials will need about $2.6 million for start-up costs for two elementary schools scheduled to open in fall 2016.
Koch told board members Monday that revenue from federal grants had decreased from $48.6 million in fiscal year 2011 to a budgeted $25.6 million in fiscal year 2015. State grant revenue increased slightly, from $9.8 million in fiscal year 2011 to a budgeted $12.2 million in fiscal year 2015.
The board will adopt a tentative working budget for 2015-16 by May 31, and Koch is trying to give board members as much information as possible before then. Toward that effort, more budget work sessions are scheduled in early May.
Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen found in a 2014 special examination that school board members previously had not been given adequate information about the budget.