Education

‘How in the world can we make it?’ School districts stunned by transportation cut.

Bevin takes aim at Lexington and Louisville school leaders in budget speech

Gov. Matt Bevin told lawmakers on Jan. 16, 2018, that school districts in Kentucky, and especially in Louisville and Lexington, need to cut administrative overhead.
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Gov. Matt Bevin told lawmakers on Jan. 16, 2018, that school districts in Kentucky, and especially in Louisville and Lexington, need to cut administrative overhead.

Scott County Schools Superintendent Kevin Hub estimates, after hearing Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget address Tuesday, that his district could take at least “a $10 million hit” in state budget cuts, $2.1 million of that in transportation.

Hub is among the Kentucky school officials concerned about picking up most of the tab for student transportation. Hub said the district was already covering half of its needed transportation expenses.

“Everybody expects us to put good, well-maintained buses with well-experienced drivers on the road, and we are not going to scrimp on those funds. We’re going to be receiving less than $1 million for a fixed expense that costs us nearly $5 million,” Hub said.

Bevin’s budget proposal would cut about $138 million in state funds for student transportation in school districts. In his speech, Bevin said he wanted districts to make up that money by spending some of the $950 million in their reserve funds.

“We are going to expect the local school districts to contribute to transportation more than in the past... they are not going to be funded to the same degree by the state as they have historically,” Bevin said.

Administration officials said they wanted to focus on the classroom, so the savings came from transportation.

The shift of costs “will be a significant concern” to many districts, especially those that are large geographically and are already financially strained, said Eric Kennedy of the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Fayette County Public Schools officials did not immediately respond to questions Wednesday how that district could be impacted by additional costs

In Leslie County Public Schools in Eastern Kentucky, finance officer Vickie Buckle said that district is already struggling, and she has no idea how they can spend any more than the $1.1 million they are now on transportation or meet transportation needs on less than the $585,000 they received last year from the state.

“All I can say is what I have been saying with every other cut,” said Leslie Superintendent Linda Rains. “How in the world can we make it? When is enough? We have government officials who are attempting to make decisions for this state who do not understand school funding or the impact these decisions have on each student in Kentucky.”

Hub said he is hopeful that advocates, including KEA President Stephanie Winkler, will be able to persuade lawmakers to listen, so at this point he and his district leadership team are not saying, “the sky is falling.”

The main funding formula for K-12 would stay the same as last year, about $3,981 per student. But Winkler said Wednesday that the transportation costs issue “is another example of how the Governor’s budget proposal shifts the burden of fiscal responsibility to local school districts. “

“We must find new revenue to fund the needs of our Commonwealth,” Winkler said. “That duty rests with state government.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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