Total state P-12 funding for FY 2017 will be essentially the same as the originally budgeted amount for the current year if Governor Bevin’s recommendations become law. The Governor’s General Fund proposal provides $4,093,226,500 for the Department of Education, while the bill signed two years ago by his predecessor provided $4,093,244,600. That’s a change of $18,100 and a decrease of 0.0004%, though rising costs probably mean the decline in buying power will be larger.
The more important shifts may be in how the money will be used. The budget proposal includes:
- $12.3 million more for equalized facilities than the FY 2016 budget bill
- $8.7 million more for local district health insurance
- $8.3 million more for local district teachers' retirement match
- $6.4 million more for Tier 1 equalization funding to school districts
- $0.6 million less for gifted and talented programs
- $0.9 million less for education of state agency children
- $1.5 million less for SEEK base funding
- $1.5 million less for Read to Achieve grants
- $1.5 million less for textbooks and other instructional resources
- $2.3 million less for after school tutoring and other extended school services
- $4.7 million less for family resource and youth services centers
- $7.9 million less for preschool programs
- $14.7 million less for the rest of the Department of Education’s work, including additional dollars the Department distributes to schools and districts.
Of course, that list also invites many questions.
How are career and technical education, professional development, and KETS funding for school technology addressed?
The Governor’s budget recommendation does not show those programs with separate line items the way legislative documents do. Instead, they’re included in a single figure that may include several programs, use some federal dollars, or cover some of the Department’s operating costs. The numbers that are shown look like they probably include moderate reductions, but the detail just isn’t available yet.
How can SEEK base funding be down if the base guarantee is unchanged?
Governor Bevin did indeed say that base guarantee be unchanged, staying at $3,981 per pupil. There is also agreement that Kentucky will have more pupils to fund. However, the state guarantee is paid by combining local revenue with state dollars: the state pays what districts don’t bring in with taxes designed to raise 30¢ per $100 in taxable property. When that local revenue is rising fast enough, the state share can go down even if the number of students is going up. As a result, the Governor can indeed propose to keep the same guarantee and spend less to cover it.
What will happen to P-12 funding in 2018?
Under the governor’s proposal, the second year of the budget will cut $9.3 million more from the Department’s share of the General Fund. Major elements of that change will be increases for health insurance, retirement, and facilities, and decreases for SEEK base funding and Tier 1 equalization.
Will there also be cuts for the current 2016 fiscal year?
The Governor has indeed proposed cuts to spending in the current year, even before a new budget can be approved. For gifted and talented, extended school services, FRYSCs, Read to Achieve, state agency children, textbooks, and preschool, those cuts seem to be half the amount shown above for next year—or about $11 million from current funding. The Kentucky School Boards Association is reporting that the total is about $18 million.
How will the Education Professional Standards Board and the School Facilities Construction Commission be funded?
Those two P-12 agencies have budgets separate from the Department’s funding. EPSB is slated to receive an increase of $415,900. SFCC has a recommended increase of $13 million for 2017 (and 2018 funding will be another $5 million higher than that). When combined with the added dollars for facilities equalization in the Department section of the budget, there’s clear evidence that investment in facilities is a priority in this proposal.
Where is the money for the pension shortfall?
The Governor’s proposal includes paying an additional $323.8 million toward that problem in 2017 and very nearly as much in 2018. The pension challenge is a huge factor in why the rest of the budget is so tight. It’s also an obligation that Kentucky simply must meet. That said, the big added payments into KTRS are not paying to educate current students. They’re late payments for work educators did in years past. They must be paid, but paying them does not add to what we can to do for the learners in Kentucky schools today and in the next two years.
Source note: This blog post compares the 2016-18 Executive Budget released by the Office of State Budget Director to 2014’s House Bill 235.