Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is calling the next legislative session a “make or break year” for education in the state.
“I think we’ve hit the wall for increasing student performance and without some reinvestment in public education I think kids are going to lose out,” he says.
As Kentucky slowly rebounds from the recession, Holliday says the state needs to make education a top priority when laying out the biennium budget that will set the funding for state agencies over the next two years.
“When you go to the legislators everybody supports new funding for education. Everybody supports education. It’s a bipartisan issue. But then they quickly say, We support it, but there’s no new money,” he says.
In his blog, Holliday points to estimates that show revenue will stay fairly flat next fiscal year. So to fill the nearly $270 million in need over the next couple years, Holliday says he supports tax reforms and expanded gaming, two issues that have not made progress in the General Assembly the past couple years.
“I think you could get a vote of the people on expanded gaming this session and I think it’s time to ask the people if they would support expanded gaming. But I think the revenue from that source should be dedicated for some percentage for education,” Holliday says.
The major issue is that funding has remained flat while enrollment in Kentucky’s public schools has increased. Currently, the state spends $3,827 per student. Holliday is requesting the state restore per student spending levels from 2009, when the state spent $3,866 per student.
Holliday says it doesn’t sound like much money but it adds up quickly.
“That doesn’t do anything to help technology, career and technical education or to give educators a pay raise or address the ongoing needs of healthcare and pensions.”
When questioned about the reality of the General Assembly approving new revenue for education, Holliday says, “I think we’re beyond hopeful.” He adds there are enough public and elected individuals that support education to get behind the request.
“I think you will see major push this fall on into the session. I think you could see things like education day at the capitol that will pull advocates all across Kentucky to push for base funding for education,” he says.