Monday, April 18, 2016

P-12 Funding: Action By the General Assembly

 | By Susan Perkins Weston | 

The General Assembly approved a budget on Friday, which is now awaiting action by Governor Bevin.  Unless the Governor vetoes some portions of the budget, it looks like the coming year will see a few major items get small increases and most parts of education funding continue without cuts. Here come some details.

The General Assembly’s budget provides a few increases in the 2017 Department of Education budget compared to 2016, including:
  • $14 million more for facilities
  • $9 million more for health insurance
  • $8 million more for the teacher retirement employer match
  • $4 million more for the SEEK base guarantee, Tier 1 and transportation
  • $2 million in new funding for 'a review of the classification of primary and secondary school buildings”

The General Assembly did not include line items for two other investments made in past years. That is, the budget does not explicitly show:
  • KETS funding that was budgeted at $23 million in 2016. The Kentucky Education Technology System has been shown as a line item in every budget since 1990.
  • Added staffing for vocational/technical schools budgeted at $3 million in 2016. Those dollars were new in the budget for the last biennium and were shown as an effort to build college and career readiness.

Those two changes may not quite be complete cuts, though.

That’s because there’s one more big change:
  • $28 million more is appropriated to the Department but not governed by a specific line item.
Since those dollars are not governed by a line item, they may turn out to go to technology, technical schools, or both. The amounts spent on those items could be higher or lower, and the uses could be exactly like past years or vary in small ways or vary in big ways.

Funding is unchanged for a number of other initiatives, including extended school services, family resource/youth service centers, gifted and talented, instructional resources (textbooks), the mathematics achievement fund, preschool program, professional development, Read to Achieve grants, safe schools , state agency children, and state-operated technical centers.

Outside the Department of Education budget, there are three other items that matter deeply to K-12 education:
  • $541,900 less for the Education Professional Standards Board
  • $13 million more for the School Facilities Construction Commission
  • $480 million more to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System.
That $480 million is the largest number in this whole blog post, and there's room to argue that it ought to be cited right at the beginning.  It's here at the end because those dollars aren't about paying for 2017 education.  They're about compensation owed to those who taught our children in years past. Filling the KTRS shortfall is about finishing paying for 2016, 2015, 2014, and years and years and years of earlier work with students.  The shortfall is about money that owed and must be paid, and the state will be making quite a few more big payments in the coming years to finish paying off that debt.  However, those payments won't allow any 2017 school to add a book to its library or a laptop to its inventory, much less an added teacher or a teacher with a better paycheck –and that's why it's not the starting point for this summary of what's coming next in P-12 funding.

Our new PrichBlog summary shows added detail, including changes for the 2018 budget and a detail page on small programs that receive less than $5 million in funding. You can download that here, or view the complete budget bill by going here and clicking on the link that says HB303.

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