Gov. Matt Bevin had plenty to say about education in his budget address Tuesday night to lawmakers, saying he wished he could do more for students in classrooms while admonishing school districts that pay too many administrators. He also talked about spending “millions of dollars” in reserves held by both local school districts and state universities.
It’s not yet clear how schools and universities will deal with Bevin’s proposed 6.25 percent spending cut, which Bevin said would not affect the main funding formula for K-12 schools. It’s also not clear how many of the “about 70” programs Bevin proposed to eliminate are education related.
Here are seven ways Bevin’s proposal will affect K-12 and higher education in Kentucky.
▪ The budget 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. However, those reserve funds are required by law, so spending that money would require legislative action.
“Local school boards are required by law to maintain reserves because they are critical in unexpected emergencies, such as catastrophic loss of buildings, which several districts have experienced in recent years,” said Eric Kennedy of the Kentucky School Boards Association. “Reserves also help districts cope with unexpected losses of revenue occurring through no fault of their own, which about a dozen districts in the eastern coalfield are currently experiencing due to the unmined coal tax assessment change undertaken by the state. In districts that have already used their reserves to handle these emergency situations, cost shifts from the state are doubly concerning.”
▪ The main funding formula for K-12 would stay the same as last year, about $3,981 per student. However, the budget has lots of cuts to programs that support students in other ways, such as virtual learning and school improvement funds.
▪ Bevin decried the millions spent on administrative salaries by school districts, singling out Jefferson and Fayette counties in particular.
The administrators “who don’t touch your students, who don’t teach in the classroom, that’s where the cuts are going to come from,” Bevin said. “I’m telling you we need to clean that up in a big way.”
▪ Bevin said 100 percent of Kentucky Lottery proceeds will be used for student scholarships, and pledged another $100 million for workforce development projects that are shared between educational entities and local communities.
▪ The proposed budget would eliminate funding for a host of higher education programs, including the Kentucky Coal County Completion Program in Eastern Kentucky, the Research Challenge Trust Fund, once known as Bucks for Brains, and the Science and Technology Funding Program.
▪ The budget would establish a $300 million bond pool to help state universities with nearly $6 billion in deferred maintenance on their aging campuses.
▪ Bevin proposed spending $2.3 billion over two years to help stabilize the Teachers’ Retirement System of Kentucky. However, local school districts would have to help pay for their employee’s health insurance.