Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Commissioner seeks restoration of cuts, greater K-12 investment needed to keep revenues growing

This from KSBA:
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has called on Gov. Steve Beshear to restore the millions of dollars in elementary and secondary education funding lost over the past five fiscal years when the state begins work on the 2014-15 budget.

In a four-page, Jan. 31 letter to Beshear, Holliday praises the governor for protecting base SEEK funding from cuts. However, the commissioner wrote that flatlining SEEK is having multiple negative consequences.

“While overall SEEK funding has not been cut throughout this recession, funding has remained constant for six straight years. This is unprecedented in Kentucky’s history. Costs for school districts continue to rise. Teachers continue to receive step and rank increases. Health care and pension costs…facility and maintenance operation costs continue to increase. This results in loss of personnel, which results in fewer resources for children,” Holliday said in his letter.

Pointing out $75.8 million in cuts to non-SEEK areas from extended school services, preschool and textbooks to safe schools, professional development and career/technical education, Holliday notes this has come as the 2009 law, Senate Bill 1, required teaching students at higher standards and dramatically increasing the numbers of college and career ready high school graduates.

“Kentucky educators have invested their own dollars and time in overcoming these challenges. It is very clear that this situation cannot continue. Raising standards and expectations while at the same time reducing resources is a recipe for negatively impacting teacher morale and retention rates,” Holliday said.

Much of Holliday’s letter covers observations of “the impact on classrooms and schools due to reductions in non-SEEK programs and the lost possibilities for programs to help more students as a result of flat SEEK funding.”  He cites several examples of the results of the cuts.

“I was visiting a district in eastern Kentucky at the beginning of the school year and overheard the desperate pleas of a mother who was trying to get her child into the district’s preschool program,” he said. “The district preschool coordinator explained to the mother that in previous years, the child would have qualified; however, due to budget cuts, the district would not be able to serve the child.”

Furthermore, the lingering threat of “catastrophic spending (fiscal cliff/sequestration) cuts…could reduce the critical momentum gained over the past few years in Kentucky,” the commissioner said, referring to Education Week’s Quality Counts rankings in which the state moved from 34th in 2011 to 10th this year.

“We all were very proud when Education Week announced that Kentucky had improved to 10th in the nation in education and policy performance,” Holliday said. “A closer look, however, reminds us that our grades on how we fund our schools point to the need for significant improvement. Kentucky received a ‘B+’ for school funding equity, but an ‘F’ for the level of spending in our schools.”

The commission ended his letter by asking the governor to look for any revenues from proposed reforms in the state’s tax system and new revenues when his administration begins drafting the 2014-16 budget “for some relief through restoration of funding for education.

“While our economy appears to be on the road to recovery, this recovery will be short lived if we do not continue to invest in education,” Holliday wrote.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Though the Commish is quite accurate in his observations about cuts, he needs to remember that it has been KDE that has been imposing the additional expectations. We got so money hungry that we pimped ourselves to the feds for a handout that really didn't send any of the funds to the folks who really needed it. If we ran a school like they run our state we would have been taken over by now as "focus state" with low achievement.