This from the Herald-Leader:
Gov. Steve Beshear proposed a two-year state budget Tuesday that restores many of the spending cuts to K-12 education in the past six years, starting at preschool and going through the upper grades.
His proposal would expand preschool to 5,125 more children, using $36 million over two years to expand eligibility for 4-year-olds whose families are within 160 percent of the federal poverty level.
The state's main school funding formula, known as SEEK, would go up by $189 million over the next two years, the bulk of which would be spent on long-awaited raises for teachers and other school employees of 2 percent in 2015 and 1 percent in 2016.
Another $95 million would be spent in the biennium to restore funding for a variety of other education programs, such as textbook funding, teacher training, after school services and school safety. Both textbook funding and teacher training spending had been virtually eliminated, and school safety funding was cut by 60 percent, Beshear said.
In total, those programs had been cut by nearly $61 million a year. Beshear would restore $47 million of that amount.
"It is time to reinvest in our education system in spite of having very few resources," Beshear said.
He praised educators for having raised Kentucky's national rankings despite budget cuts.
"It's time to reinvest with them so we can keep that momentum going," he said.
Educators and advocates, who have been pushing hard this summer and fall for renewed funding, were happy with the proposal.
"We're elated," said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. "It's such a positive sign for education and for the children of Kentucky."
Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, the state's largest teacher union, said she would be working to persuade legislators to keep the governor's proposed numbers in the final budget, or even add more money.
"Public school employees view the governor's budget proposal as a huge step in the right direction for Kentucky's students," she said. "Without these necessary funding strategies our schools stand to lose everything they have gained in the last five years."
Beshear's budget also would include $50 million in bonds to replace school technology, and $100 million for school construction.
Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton said he was thrilled with money for textbooks and teacher training, and "I'm always excited about money for preschool education."
"We're still underfunded, but this keeps us from going further backwards," Shelton said.
The budget would make some specific changes to high school programming, including $2 million to improve access to Advanced Placement classes, $2 million to add additional students at the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University, and more than $1 million to add 100 new students each at the Governor's School for the Arts and the Governor's Scholars Program.
Holliday said Tuesday night that his only regret was that K-12's gains came at the expense of other state agencies, and that he will "push hard" with legislators to find other sources of funding, such as what might be produced with tax reform or expanded gambling.
"It is critical lawmakers explore expanded gaming as well as tax reform," Holliday said.
"Otherwise, with a finite number of dollars to go around, the result will mean curtailed services to the citizens of our state."
And this from Commissioner Holliday via press release:
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday praised Governor Steve Beshear’s proposed 2015-16 biennial budget and the Governor’s commitment to reinvesting in education.“I am proud the Governor has recognized education as a key investment for the future of Kentucky,” Holliday said. “It will mean a better prepared workforce that can attract higher paying jobs and support the economic development of our state, which will benefit all Kentuckians.“Reinvesting in education will ensure that we will not backslide and can continue to build on the progress we’ve made to date raising the high school graduation rate and improving the college/career-readiness of our students,” Holliday said.A reinvestment in education is necessary, the commissioner said, because of cuts in funding over the past several years. The General Assembly has allocated $64 million less in basic Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding at a time when the Average Daily Attendance increased by more than 10,000 students, effectively cutting per pupil spending.At a time when educators have been implementing Senate Bill 1 (2009) and raising the bar on education in our state, flexible focus funds that pay for professional development for teachers, safe schools, extended school services for students who need extra help, textbooks and preschool have been cut by nearly $61 million, he said. Technology funding has been cut $8 million and schools are in dire need of updated technology devices, Holliday stated.“Our schools have done a tremendous job with what they’ve had,” Holliday said. “The Governor’s proposed budget goes a long way toward restoring the erosion in funding we’ve seen in recent years.”Governor Beshear recommends investing $189 million in SEEK over the biennium, bringing per pupil spending to its highest total ever. The allocation includes pay increases for all teachers and classified school personnel (2 percent in FY15 and 1 percent in FY16).Gov. Beshear’s proposed education investments over the two years also include:· $95.4 million for textbooks, professional development, school safety and Extended School Services· $36 million to expand preschool services to serve 5,125 more 4-year-olds by increasing eligibility from 150 percent of the poverty level to 160 percent· $50 million in bonds for technology and school equipment upgrades· $100 million for school facilities to upgrade or replace aging K-12 school buildings through General Fund-supported bonds“The Governor’s proposed budget is only the beginning. It is critical that the General Assembly also recognize the importance of reinvesting in education,” Holliday said. “With the future of the Commonwealth in the balance, we feel confident our lawmakers will see the wisdom in restoring education funding,” he stated.Commissioner Holliday recognized the Governor’s budget proposal comes at a cost to other state agencies, some of which have endured a 40 percent cut in spending since 2008. That’s why he indicated it is so important that educators support efforts to expand the state’s revenue sources.“It is critical lawmakers explore expanded gaming as well as tax reform,” Holliday said. “Otherwise, with a finite number of dollars to go around, the result will mean curtailed services to the citizens of our state.”