Governor and General Assembly Maintain and Strengthen Key Investments in P12 Education
We thank members of the General Assembly and Governor Bevin for crafting a budget for the upcoming biennium that strengthens investments in early childhood and maintains P-12 funding, including the SEEK formula and other key non-SEEK programs such as preschool.
We also applaud lawmakers for the vision to increase the income eligibility level of the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to 160% of the current federal poverty level. While disappointing that the Governor vetoed an increase in preschool eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level, the budget does align the state’s eligibility for preschool and CCAP, as well as establishes a grant pool to incentivize public-private partnerships between public preschool and childcare. These investments safeguard the building blocks of education for Kentucky’s children.
Preserving funding for public preschool, as well as raising the income eligibility level for child care assistance, will allow more of Kentucky’s children access to much needed early learning and development programs. Funds to incentivize public-private partnerships between school districts and private child care providers will maximize public resources and allow for the coordination of full-day, high quality learning experiences that are best for children and their working parents. Blending these resources means children can be served in environments that best suit their needs while also supporting families that rely on services to keep working.
Postsecondary Requires Focus in Future Session
Unfortunately, the pattern of disinvestment in public postsecondary institutions that has persisted since 2008 continues with 4.5% reductions to most campuses. The costs of such disinvestment are ultimately born by students and families, as evidenced by the approval this week of roughly 5% increases in tuition for the 2016-2017 academic year at most campuses. This is of great concern as more Kentucky students are college- and career-ready and value the pursuit of higher education as a means to a better life.
On the other hand, state student financial aid increased over the biennium. While the General Assembly provided an additional $55 million increase in need-based aid through the lottery-funded College Access Program (CAP) and Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG) – which could have served 30,000 more financially disadvantaged students – the Governor’s veto of parts of House Bill 10 effectively reduces this increase to $15 million.
Two new programs created in the budget to help increase college access and attainment, the Work Ready Kentucky and the Dual Credit scholarship will still receive $30 million over the biennium, although the Governor’s veto of House Bill 626 leaves details of how the programs will work to be determined.
More funding for student financial aid signals progress toward making postsecondary education possible for all Kentuckians and we hope work continues to increase financial assistance to those students who need it most.
As well, the inclusion of a performance-based postsecondary finance model in 2018 is a promising first step in substantially linking public investment to actual outcomes and measures of quality and performance.
The public pension crisis has placed a significant strain on the rest of the state budget, making it more challenging to fund education at all levels. The substantial funding included for the public pension funds will hopefully ease this pressure in future years and not crowd out additional investments in education.
As a whole, in the face of significant fiscal challenges, we appreciate that lawmakers gave every effort to ensure Kentucky maintains support for a seamless web of educational opportunities necessary for success in school, career and life.