During his 2018 State of the Commonwealth and Budget Address, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin announced his budget plans for the Commonwealth, a budget that could, if passed, severely financially cripple or even break some school districts, according to many school district superintendents.
In his address to the General Assembly, Governor Bevin touted that his budget proposal would hold SEEK funding harmless. SEEK stands for Support Education Excellence in Kentucky and is the formula that determines the allocation of state funds distributed to each school district. The problem with the Governor’s proposal, according to Dr. Tom Shelton, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, is that Gov. Bevin proposes a major cut in transportation funding, which is allocated through SEEK funding formula.
Currently, state funding for school transportation is at 58%, which according to Dr. Shelton, is at all-time low. In the Governor’s proposed budget, transportation funding would be reduced to 25%.
Dr. Shelton quoted Matt Robbins, who is the superintendent of Daviess County Schools, who calculated that the proposed cut in transportation funding is the equivalent of a cut of $211 per student in SEEK funding. “This is the same as if the SEEK funding per student were lowered from $3,981 to $3,770. This would be one of, if not the largest, cut in education funding ever experienced in our state.”
Superintendent Marvin Moore agreed, adding, “The cuts that the Governor has proposed in his budget will do only one thing – it will seriously harm our public education system. The people that are supporting this budget proposal must not understand that they are putting their troubles on the backs of our students. This budget will have a negative impact on everyone in this community, let alone the state, especially the future of our community – our students.”
The Governor has suggested that school districts make up the transportation funding deficit by using monies from their contingency fund. By law, each school district is required to set aside at least 2% of the district’s entire budget as a contingency fund. The Kentucky Department of Education, however, has suggested that districts set aside at least 5%, stating that 2% could not cover one payroll period of wages for a district.
Taking that suggestion into consideration and because the staff have been wise stewards of taxpayers’ money, the Rowan County School District has a 6% contingency fund. A healthy contingency fund helps a district meet cash flow in those months between local revenue collections, protects a district’s credit rating and can help cover unexpected emergencies, such as the loss of a building.
“The contingency fund cannot be looked at as surplus money,” said Supt. Moore. “We have to budget for our contingency fund every year, just like we budget for things like transportation, payroll, food service, etc. It is vital that our school district – every school district – maintain a healthy contingency fund, in case we were faced with an emergency funding crisis. We already budget over $800,000 for transportation; if we are forced to pay what the Governor is requesting for transportation, it could seriously cripple this district.”
In addition to severely cutting funding to school transportation, the Governor has also proposed eliminating funding for Professional Development, which helps teachers refine their teaching skills and learn new methods to bring to their classrooms, the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program, which provides mentorship and support for first-year teachers, Textbooks, and Community Education.
Supt. Moore noted, “If we look at the financial and educational impact this Governor’s proposed budget cuts could have, these numbers are the equivalent of cutting 12 teachers in this district. We’re already down to the bare bones. We’ve been asked to cut and cut and cut. I agree with what KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling said in an interview. ‘This budget asks for more of local districts to make up for what the state is not funding and, as a result, Kentucky’s children will suffer.’”
Moore then added, “I urge everyone to contact our state legislators with your concerns about this budget. I’ve always said that we need to do what is best for the kids. This budget is definitely not what is good for our kids. We need to protect their education; our children are the future of Kentucky.”
Contact information for Sen. Steve West:
Phone: (502) 564-8100 Ext. 806
Contact information for Rep. Rocky Adkins:
Phone: (502) 564-5565