Thursday, February 04, 2016

Kentucky Schools Facing Cuts

 "We could shut the department down for three months 
and not make $17 million." 
--Ed Commissioner Stephen Pruitt 

 At its meeting in Frankfort today, the Kentucky Board of Education discussed impending budget cuts and how to best handle them.

            Office of Administration and Support Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney told the board that at the governor’s direction, the state budget office has instructed the department to cut nearly $18 million dollars between now and June 30.

            “As we consider the different budget categories, we look at three main areas: personnel, monies paid by the department on behalf of districts and payments to outside partners. The problem is that many of these funds already have been paid out,” Kinney said, “so the options on what and where to cut are limited.”
            Board members voiced grave concern about the 4.5 percent reduction as well as the proposed 9 percent cuts in each year of the upcoming biennium as outlined in the governor’s proposed budget. The governor has said that the cuts are to shore up shortfalls in state pension funds, including the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System.

            While the governor vowed not to cut basic SEEK funding, department staff indicated that more than 90 percent of the education budget is comprised of pass-through funds to districts for programs outside the SEEK formula. Less than 1 percent of the budget supports Frankfort-based operations.

            Board members said they would like to see the preservation of funds to districts made a priority, and Commissioner Stephen Pruitt agreed, citing that has been the approach in prior years.

            “The reality is though, if the reductions do come to pass, there will be cuts to districts in funds they are counting on,” Pruitt said.

This from the Courier-Journal:
Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said the Department of Education is facing significant cuts under Gov. Matt Bevin's proposed budget, with close to $72 million that could be cut in total, starting with more than $17 million in cuts this fiscal year alone.

Pruitt, during a visit toThe Courier-Journal on Tuesday, said he hopes to try to protect local districts as much as possible but that it was pretty much inevitable that some of the cuts would affect schools, saying that about 93 percent of the Department of Education's budget is pass-through funding.

"We could shut the department down for three months and not make $17 million," Pruitt said.

Pruitt commended Bevin for holding base per-pupil school funding, known as SEEK, steady in his budget proposal. But he said that even doing that will leave school districts short under the proposal.

Bevin last week proposed slashing funding to most state agencies by 9 percent in large part to help shore up funding for the state's pension funds shortfalls. He has proposed having agencies first make a 4.5 percent cut to their current year appropriation.

Under his proposal, in 2016-17, the agencies will have to cut 9 percent from their current year appropriations (as they are now, before the 4.5 percent cut is applied). In 2017-2018, agencies would be held to the same reduced appropriation as the year before.

Bevin's proposed budget includes line items that would cut preschool funding by about $4 million in 2016-2017 from current levels, would decrease textbook spending by about $750,000 and funding for family resource and youth service centers by more than $2.3 million in order to help achieve the proposed overall reduction.

But Pruitt said Tuesday that the governor's office has told him it is open to discussions on how to handle the cuts.

"I'm trying not to make fast decisions that are knee-jerk," Pruitt said, adding that he is going through different portions of the budget to make sure he understands each allocation. Pruitt just took over as commissioner in October. "I want to always be able to say, 'We did this and here's why.'"

Pruitt made a point to say that he wants to protect the Kentucky School for the Blind and Kentucky School for the Deaf, which he said do not get SEEK funds.

He stressed that it Bevin's proposal for the next two years is just that and that the budget outlook may change as the legislature works through the budget.

"My biggest thing is trying to protect the districts," Pruitt said.

1 comment:

Bringyoursaddlehome said...

Well if our state legislators and governor pass their new and improved Senate Bill 1, might not even matter if KDE even exists as it seems as though it is shifting most of the power away from centralized state control to local oversight.

Regardless, this state has to get out of the reduction of expenses mindset - we have been playing this game for six or more years now. New revenue streams have to be developed just like with KERA in 1990 and the increased sales tax and lotto money. It is unfortunate that politicians don't have the courage to move down this path as has been recommended countless times via blue ribbon committees and reports that sit untouched and apparently unread.

The catalyst for KERA came with the Court's determination that the existing school funding mechanisms were unconstitutional because it facilitated unequal educational opportunities among districts. I think that many would agree that we are again moving in that direction when comparing some urban districts to their rural counterparts.

I wonder if a similarly framed argument could also be made in relationship to "state" universities when it comes to accessibility vis-a-vi socio-economic status of citizens seeking enrollment at KY public universities. I realize they are not K-12 common schools but if the state is going to claim control and responsibility for providing its citizens access to pubic universities, there would seem to be some sort threshold expectation for that accessibility. Unfortunately, If our governor truly believes that post secondary access is a privilege then that would seem to imply that a high school diploma is the baseline expectation for education in our state. We all know that even someone with a degree in French Literature is going to make more income than some one with only a HS diploma in most circumstances.

If the governor truly believes this then what policies and plans does he have in place to provide these HS graduates with jobs that will provide them with a decent living? He does not endorse raising the minimum wage and may even be acting so as to reduce their access to medical insurance. Increases are in addressing drug addiction, social worker pay and state police salaries - all worthy but a comspiratorialist might surmise that the governor is planning on socioeconomically imprisoning these HS graduate states in to a rather dead end fate. I can't say I see that as an intended end but I do believe the consequences of post secondary cuts are quite clear. The well to do get overpriced college educations. The shrinking middle class become enslaved to thousands of dollars in student loan debt which siphons disposable income from our consumer economy. The poor stay poor without access to higher education.