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Education Funding in Kentucky Continues to Decline

St. Croix Central Schools

Since the recession, Kentucky is 11th worst in the nation in the depth of budget cuts to K-through-12 funding, according to a nonpartisan policy research organization.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 30 states are providing less funding per student since the economic crisis hit. Ashley Spalding, a research and policy associate for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said that has serious consequences beyond the classroom.

"Investments in education are investments in the economy," she said. "Budget cuts threaten our ability to grow our economy."

The report compared core funding for local schools, state by state, and found that when inflation is factored in, Kentucky has cut its per-student investment by 11.4 percent from 2008 to the present. That's $561 per student.

The Kentucky Legislature did increase core funding, known as SEEK, in this year's state budget by $37 per student. While that increase is "certainly an improvement," Spalding said, years of flat funding have been especially hard on the state's poorer school systems.

"With funding cuts at the state level, compounded by cuts at the federal level," she said, "you see inequality grow because of the wealth disparities in the local school districts."

Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, said public-school employees, especially those in far eastern Kentucky counties, still are grappling with the impact of the recession.

"It's hard for those school systems, with such low socio-economic status, to keep up with what they need for 21st-century learning," she said.

Winkler said a lack of broadband infrastructure is a prime example.

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