KENTUCKY – A leading education advocacy group has a “big bold” plan to fund education in Kentucky.
The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is calling on the Kentucky General Assembly to allocate $1 billion in education funding through 2026 in all areas of education.
“We need an increased sense of urgency to return Kentucky back to a place of leadership in education where we’ve been for decades. And part of that is requesting extra support of early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Executive Director of the Prichard Committee. “We know we’ve been losing ground in recent years, our NAEP results show that we’re losing ground in reading proficiency we’ve been behind states in math for many years, so we need to pick up the pace. We’ve also dropped form 24th in preschool enrollment in the early 2000s down to a low of 41st nationally for preschool enrollment. So a greater sense of urgency for all Kentuckians in all levels of education is critical for the state to move forward.”
The plan is to gradually increase the funding to all three areas over the next six years. Approximately a third of the funding would go toward early childhood including child care and preschool, about a third going to K-12 including fully funding all-day kindergarten and transportation, and a third of it going toward postsecondary education to fully fund the performance-based funding model.
“We are phasing it in at a lower amount in the first biennium realizing there are significant pressures on the state budget and then increasing the investment ask in the second and third biennia recognizing that hopefully the legislature will recognize the need for some level of adjustment to our tax code that results in new revenue into the general fund which is necessary at this point in time for Kentucky to move forward,” Blom Ramsey said.
While a billion dollars in extra funding over the next six years is a large ask—Blom Ramsey says the plan takes into account the natural growth of the general revenue fund.
“If we believe that education is a core requirement of state government providing a high quality education, again early childhood through postsecondary then the growth in the general fund is there to support this,” she said. “Now there may be other things that require investment or funding at this point, of course we are going to hear a lot about pensions again and a lot of other issues, we would argue that the core investment needs to come first.”
Blom Ramsey says investing in teachers is another important component of the plan and is pushing for a new fund called the “Fund for Teaching Excellence” which would develop a systematic state support to develop effective teaching, expand support for recruiting and retaining diverse teachers, provide intensive support for new teachers and principals, provide annual stipends for teachers who have earned a National Board certification among several other things.
“That requires postsecondary to be at the table, it requires K-12, it rquires folks across the state to really think strategically about how we increase the quality of teaching and the effectiveness of teaching and ensure that our teachers have the skills and resources that they need to deliver what our students need in the classroom,” Blom Ramsey said. “So if there is an innovate kind of layer across this entire framework and something that Kentucky needs to focus on moving forward it is teaching, it is the value of the profession and providing the supports and resources to our teachers.”
Lawmakers the organization has spoken to seem supportive of the idea.
“We’ve been getting a really good response from folks,” Blom Ramsey said. “It seems the six year framework is really appreciated folks feel that it is doable, its practical, it responds to needs across the pipeline without positioning one part of education in contrast to another, we are hopeful that the idea will gain some momentum, some traction and that advocates, stakeholders, shareholders, and citizens across the state will find themselves in this plan and support it.”
To view the plan click here.