We advocate for efficient use of resources and equitable funding that is adequate to assure excellence in education from early childhood through postsecondary. We set the goal of providing per-pupil funding equal to or greater than the average of surrounding states.
As a member organization of the Kentucky Education Action Team (KEAT) — a coalition of K-12 school groups — we cohosted a statewide Education Summit in Lexington on Nov. 21, 2013 and challenged more than 200 Kentucky teachers, parents, school district leaders and other advocates to have face-to-face meetings with their legislators and deliver a simple message on school funding needs: “Our kids can’t wait.” Participants were urged to contact lawmakers to restore millions of dollars that have been cut from school programs over the past six years. More details about the Summit including videos, pictures, presentations, press release and the
“Preschool. Textbooks. Teacher training. Tutoring. Technology. Students are suffering the impact of state funding cuts on their learning,” said Prichard Committee Executive Director Stu Silberman. “Kentucky expects our students to learn more than any previous generation of students. Yet, over the last six years, state funding for our schools has not kept up. Specific programs have been cut or eliminated. For example, at a time when teachers need the most help to upgrade their skills, state funding for their professional development has been cut by two-thirds. “
“Public schools are a great investment. Education Week now ranks Kentucky schools in the Top 10 nationally. But without technology, without preschool, without extra help for kids who are falling behind, the things that have brought us forward are being eroded away,” Silberman said.
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday used SB 1 – the 2009 reform law that required a new system of measuring academic progress – and the state’s primary school funding source – the SEEK formula – to illustrate how the loss of funding affects classroom instruction and school operations.
“In the 2008 budget session, there was a commitment of $3,866 per student (SEEK). ‘Here is our commitment to you – school districts, teachers, principals, parents – as you do the difficult work of SB 1.’ $3,866 per student. What they are actually funding now is $3,827 per student. So in the last four years, we’ve lost $60 million,” Holliday said.
“We’ve got about 10 districts that could be headed to bankruptcy in the next 12-18 months if something doesn’t happen. They don’t have the local resources to fix this. We’ve never had a school district go bankrupt, but you’re going to see that happen if we don’t act,” the commissioner said.
“We have a choice in Kentucky. If we want to be competitive, if we want to continue to bring jobs, we’d better invest in education. Education drives important opportunities,” Holliday said. “This battle will not be won in Frankfort. This battle must take place in every community across the state.”
To that end, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson called on the summit participants to go home, seek out their legislators and deliver the “Our students can’t wait” message, face-to-face.
“Figure out who your legislator is, take the time to make an appointment, and tell them that you are going to hold them accountable. We’ve had enough rallies. We’ve had enough resolutions. What gets it done is a nuts and bolts campaign of citizens who connect with their legislators and make it work through citizen involvement,” said Abramson.
Abramson, who led Gov. Steve Beshear’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform in 2012, said legislators need to know how important new revenues are for education, mental health, state police and other public services.
“Look ‘em in the eye and tell them how important this is,” he said. “Let them know you’ve got their backs on new revenues because it will give our children a better opportunity. Then call them and tell them you are watching. Then you’ve exercised your rights as citizens and moved beyond just moaning about the situation.”
Participants were given a toolkit of materials to use in their home communities with data on the school funding cuts and ideas on how to continue the legislative contacts.