Education Kentucky Politics

Superintendents from tornado-affected western Kentucky school districts went to Frankfort Thursday to ask state lawmakers for more financial relief. 

State lawmakers already passed Senate Bill 5, which allocated $30 million for school systems dealing with the aftermath of December’s deadly storms.  But Joe Henderson, Superintendent of Mayfield Independent, said more help is needed aside from that offered in SB5.

“That’s gonna be very helpful. But in looking through the bill, there were some things that we still felt like that were obviously major issues as far as funding,” Henderson said.

Henderson and other superintendents from storm-torn areas are worried that storm-related population losses will mean financial losses as well for districts. It’s an issue they’ve been public about since December.

The state funds districts based on their “average daily attendance.” But western Kentucky school districts have fewer students now, since many families were displaced by the storms. 

Henderson says he expects to lose about 95 students over the next few years. Leonard Whalen, superintendent of Dawson Springs Independent Schools, is also anticipating a hit to enrollment and a subsequent financial hit for his school district.

“And that’s something that really hadn’t been touched on in a lot of the discussions I’ve heard up here,” Whalen told the Senate education committee.

In addition to the enrollment-related financial losses, the widespread destruction means some districts expect reductions in local property tax revenue and other local taxes that normally support the school system.

At the same time, storm-torn districts are facing millions of dollars in expenses for replacing damaged property, especially school buses.

Henderson, Whalen and Graves County Schools Superintendent Matthew Madding are requesting lawmakers not ding them for population losses and freeze their average daily attendance at pre-storm levels for the next five years.

“I’m wanting this committee to know we’re gonna need some help. We’re gonna need some help for a while. This is not going to be a one- or two-year deal,” Whalen said.

Sen. David Givens said the legislature would “stand ready to provide all the funds we can to assist.” But lawmakers did not commit to a specific form of relief.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.