After a decade of plummeting investment in Kentucky’s public schools, colleges and universities, an advocacy group has a big request for lawmakers – step up spending on early childhood, K-12 and higher education by $1 billion.
“We can’t continue to disinvest in education,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.
The group last month unveiled a funding framework to invest in K-12 priorities like all-day kindergarten, school transportation costs, child care assistance and millions more in the state’s performance funding model for postsecondary education.
Under the Prichard Committee’s plan, spending increases would begin in fiscal year 2021 and escalate through fiscal year 2026.
Additional investments are needed, according to the committee, to roll back a decade of state budget cuts and investments in education that the group said haven’t kept up with the cost of inflation.
Since 2008, state spending on Kentucky’s public colleges and universities have plunged by 33 percent, according to the group. That forces low-income students, many of whom are first-generation college students, to shoulder a growing burden, the group said.
Additionally, with Kentucky ranking among the poorest states in the country, state spending per student has fallen by 12 percent since 2008, the group said.
The group said rolling back those declines starts with millions more in spending on early childhood education. Specifically, it’s asking for $251 million in additional funding to provide child care assistance to 23,000 children in low-income families and another $80 million for preschool supports.
When students start kindergarten unprepared to learn, they’re at risk of falling behind, and Ramsey said Kentucky has lagged in that area.
“We’ve lost a lot of ground on enrollment in high-quality early childhood programs,” she said.
When it comes to kindergarten, the Prichard Committee is pushing for $140 million to cover the cost of full-day programs for schools. Currently, local districts have to foot the bill if they want to offer daylong kindergarten programs.
The group is calling for another $162 million to fund school transportation, which was slashed in the 2018-20 budget. That cost produces some of the most out of balance expenses for school districts in Kentucky, Ramsey said, especially geographically larger counties.
With fundings for teacher training eliminated altogether during the last budget cycle, the Prichard Committee wants lawmakers to allot $58 million for a Fund for Teaching Excellence.
Ramsey said the fund could be used to immediately support professional learning to increase the effectiveness of teaching and thus classroom learning – particularly in strategic areas like third-grade reading and math proficiency.
Rounding out its request from state lawmakers, an additional $311 would be used to fully fund the state’s performance funding model for public colleges and universities. Separately, $30 million would go toward expanding need-based aid and offer 18,000 more College Access Program grants to low-income students.
With other states putting money back into higher education, including Tennessee, Ramsey pitched the Prichard’s Committee framework as an achievable way to keep Kentucky competitive and to lift communities out of poverty.
“This is a plan to support Kentucky’s future,” Ramsey said.
– Read the Prichard Committee’s plan in its entirety with this article at bgdailynews.com.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdaily news.com.