The Department of Education recently notified districts that they would not receive SEEK funding this year at the promised levels.
Why? The main reason is that average daily attendance (ADA) is higher than the state budget assumed it would be, by about 10,000 students, so there will be less money per pupil.
I've heard two further things that make sense to me. First, that we changed how we count ADA recently, and the budget could and should have taken that into account. Second, that in past years, the SEEK line item had some extra money built in in case ADA went up, but that sort of cushion wasn't included in the current budget. I'd rate the folks I've heard these things from as very likely to have the story straight, but should mention that I haven't heard these details directly from state officials involved in this work.
In any case, the end result is that the state is spending the same total dollars, but every student in the state will receive less than promised.
I want to link that experience to proposals to raise the dropout age, now being seriously discussed in Frankfort.
When we say we're ready to work harder with students who want to quit, we need to include the funding. We need to get the cost estimate right, and we need a serious plan to pay that bill promptly when it comes due.
Last year, I estimated that raising the dropout age would add about 9,300 students to average daily attendance, very like the recent SEEK shift. Counting state-paid benefits as well as SEEK costs, I estimated a state price tag of about $71.5 million to serve those additional students.
Until the legislature talks concretely about the actual costs and the plan for meeting those costs, I'm worried about repeating what just happened with SEEK: the state will provide the same total dollars and ask districts to make that amount serve many more students.