Seven state education groups have come together to ask elected officials to stop cutting public school funding.
The coalition, called the Kentucky Education Action Team, announced its efforts at a news conference Wednesday in Frankfort.
Over the past four years, public schools have endured about $1 billion in funding shortfalls, the coalition reported. SEEK funding, the primary source of money for the state's public schools, has declined from $4,230 per student during the 2007-08 school year to $3,769 per student this year.
"The public hears a lot of talk about education having been ‘protected' from cuts in recent years, but that's only true on a relative level to the cuts in funding to other public services," said Bill Scott, executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association, one of the groups in the coalition. "School funding has not gone untouched, and the public needs to understand that."
Along with the Kentucky School Boards Association, the coalition is made up of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky Association of School Councils, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Parent Teacher Association and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.
Leslie Peek, public relations coordinator for Bowling Green Independent Schools, is on the board of directors for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. One of the group's top legislative priorities in the past few years has been to preserve state funding for education.
"It's been the same case with all these groups, so this year they've come together to lobby the legislature," Peek said.
The coalition is more effective than each group lobbying individually, she said.
"I think it sends a strong message when they can say with one voice that we need to make education a priority," she said.
State funding cuts are hard on teachers and administrators, Peek said. "We're being asked to do so much more with fewer resources," she said. "It's getting less and less every year."
Like Scott, Peek believes education hasn't been spared from budget cuts. "We've taken a lot of hits that the public isn't even aware of," she said.
For example, schools are responsible for buying textbooks each year, and in the last two years, state funding has completely cut out money for textbooks.
Bowling Green Independent Schools Superintendent Joe Tinius said he agrees that education hasn't been spared from cuts. Though base funding might stay the same at the beginning of the school year, midyear adjustments are often made - adjustments that reduce funding.
Still, Tinius said he maintains perspective about the situation.
"I'm quick to point out that I fully understand that it could be worse," he said. "But we have to be open and honest with these midyear adjustments."
Tinius is an active member of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
He said the coalition will help elected officials understand that funding affects everyone involved in education, from administrators to teachers to parents.
"I think it's important the governor and the legislators hear a single message from all of these organizations," Tinius said.