Local superintendents in Kentucky are calling for more state funding for programs like special education, English language learning and at-risk students.
The state pays for the programs by adding to districts’ funding based on how many students they have, but education advocates say persistent inflation has weakened assistance.
During a legislative meeting on Monday, Somerset Independent Schools Superintendent Kyle Lively said the state’s education funding mechanism hasn’t adapted.
“In order to have an excellent and equitable education, we have to have an adequate and equitable funding system for public schools,” Lively said.
Kentucky pays for its schools through a combination of state and local funding. School districts raise money through local property taxes.
Even though lawmakers have boosted Kentucky’s school funding formula in recent years, the amount hasn’t kept up with inflation, leaving local districts to shoulder more of the financial burden.
Superintendents said programs designed for English language learners, foster kids and special education students are especially vulnerable because they’re funded on once-per-year population numbers, while actual numbers can fluctuate throughout the year.
And because the state’s contribution doesn’t cover the entire cost of those services, local districts are left picking up the tab.
Superintendents also said they’ve been left with more of the cost of transporting students.
Nick Carter, superintendent of Breckinridge County Public Schools, said transportation costs are crowding out other programs.
“Being a county district with over 4,000 miles a day of traveling, that is of great concern,” Carter said. “When that much money is coming out of your general fund, it is taking from other services.”
Until this year, the legislature only funded a half day of kindergarten education, leaving it up to local districts to pay for a full-day program if they wanted it.
But lawmakers agreed to fund one year of full-day kindergarten as a bargaining chip to sway key votes on a bill to create a controversial tax-credit scholarship program.
Logan County School Superintendent Paul Mullins said he hoped the legislature would continue to fund it.
Rep. James Tipton, a Republican from Taylorsville, said he plans to file a bill to keep the full-day kindergarten funding in place.
“You never can guarantee what the General Assembly will do, but I have a bill drafted to make full-funded kindergarten permanent,” Tipton said. “We’ll see how that goes forward.”