Proposed new formula for funding Kentucky schools would cost up to $2.4 billion more

Kentucky's method of funding public schools would change under proposals included in a report released Tuesday.

The new funding model would focus on the resources each school needs to achieve academic growth.

Currently, Kentucky uses the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) formula to allocate state dollars to school districts. Under SEEK, the state sets an allotment for each student, taking into consideration additional needs for exceptional students, low-income students, transportation, students who do not speak English, and other students in special circumstances.

The Council for Better Education, a consortium of 168 Kentucky public school districts, commissioned a $130,000 yearlong study by the school finance consulting firm Picus, Odden & Associates.

The group's president is outgoing Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton, who will become the executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.

The report, released Tuesday in Louisville, offers a new model of what it takes for students to reach proficiency. It is specific as to class sizes, and includes things like the number of instructional coaches, tutors, counselors and nurses. It includes additional support for students who are low income, and extra resources for English language learners and students with disabilities, Shelton said.

He said the proposed model could cost up to $2.4 billion more in state and local money above the approximately $7 billion that is spent annually in Kentucky on elementary and secondary schools.

But Shelton said his group would ask only that lawmakers consider the new model in the 2016 session and would not be asking for more money any time soon.

Shelton said he thinks it would take five to seven years before Kentucky could implement the formula.

"Kentucky has taken the lead in expectations for students and reform in the schools, but the funding is not adequate to get us there," he said.

In Fayette County under the model, the district would require an additional $72.2 million.

"What the model would explain ... is not just saying we need more money, but we need it for these reasons and we have research to show how those resources are successful," said Shelton.

The study compared Kentucky school spending with other states and found that the state trailed states with high-achieving schools.

Shelton said he has a meeting scheduled on Dec, 16 with leaders of both the House and Senate education committees and with Gov. Steve Beshear's staff to go over the model.

"This report provides valuable information ... but must be considered in the context of the overall needs of our state ... ," Beshear said.