Some are calling the dozens of Kentucky school boards that have passed resolutions demanding more funding for public education in the next state budget cycle the largest grassroots movement by local districts in recent history.
“This really started with one school board, up in Morehead, the Rowan County board, that just got fed up,” says Brad Hughes, who has been with the Kentucky School Boards Association for 20 years.
Hughes says he’s counted over 60 school boards that have passed similar resolutions to boost funding for public education.
Following the resolution by the Rowan County School Board last month, KSBA sent out a model resolution to all school districts urging them to adopt something similar, he says.
“A couple of weeks ago we had four or five. Now we have 60. I have no doubt that we’ll have 173 before this effort catches on,” says Hughes.
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, who has called this next budget cycle a “make or break year” for public education in Kentucky, has used his voice (and blog) to ask lawmakers to restore per-pupil funding to 2009 levels.
An increase in student enrollment but no hike in funding means districts have less per-pupil spending the last few years (currently, the state spends $3,827 per student. In 2009, the state spent $3,866 per student).
Holliday is requesting nearly $270 million over the two-year budget cycle, but Kentucky also has to deal with other state agencies needing money and a grossly underfunded state pension system.
But Hughes says school districts are doing what they can and when local boards pass these resolutions it sends a powerful message to state lawmakers.
“In some past years, some legislators have said, well we haven’t heard from our local folks that there’s a problem so why are you state-wide organizations making a big deal if local folks aren’t howling. Local folks are howling now,” he says.
Hughes says he expects all school districts to pass similar resolutions.