Governor’s "education first" budget proposal a good first step | Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Governor’s “education first” budget proposal a good first step

January 29, 2020

Strategic investments still needed in early childhood, K-12 and higher education

On Tuesday night, the first step in the state budget process began as Gov. Andy Beshear released his budget proposal, which placed education funding as a top priority. The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence has analyzed the governor’s proposal through the lens of its Big Bold Ask – a strategic investment framework that calls for an additional $1 billion state reinvestment in education from early childhood, to K-12, to postsecondary over the next six years.

The analysis by the Prichard Committee shows much needed relief for higher education in the proposal. However, investments in early childhood programs did not receive any boosts, and in some cases, cuts were proposed. K-12 schools did see an increase in the SEEK base guarantee per pupil, however additional investments are needed to ensure local districts have resources to properly invest in equitable student learning.

“To deliver the promise of education excellence for every Kentuckian, the Commonwealth must reverse years of budget cuts and lost buying power,” said Prichard Committee President and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey. “The governor’s proposal is a promising first step to funding all components of the Big Bold Ask. However, we will now look to the Kentucky General Assembly for commitments to elements where his proposal fell short – particularly in early childhood, in state funding for public school transportation costs, and for all-day kindergarten, and to deepen investments in higher education.”

Since the Great Recession of 2008, state investments have: declined 33% in our colleges and universities; declined 12% in our K-12 per-pupil base guarantee; and have been inadequate to ensure high-quality early learning opportunities for our youngest children. This declining investment in education – and our future – threatens to reverse the progress Kentucky has made in student success and national rankings.

Due to an estimated $1.256 billion in additional resources over the biennium, major elements of the Governor’s proposed budget include investments to fully fund pensions, a $2,000 raise for school teachers, a restoration of textbook funding, a 1% increase in the base SEEK per-pupil guarantee, increasing the base funding to colleges and universities, and increasing student financial aid continuing a commitment to allocate 100% of lottery proceeds to scholarships.

“These are all positive steps,” said Ramsey. “However, we remain concerned by the lack of investment in other critical programs that support teaching and learning – from early childhood through postsecondary.”

Early Childhood

The Governor’s budget proposal did not include line items for the child care assistance program (CCAP), or the preschool program, both of which are key components of the Big Bold Ask. The Prichard Committee’s proposal for early childhood funding of $24 million over the biennium, phases in investment for eligibility up to 200% of the federal poverty level, adds higher per-child rates to support quality programs, and continues support for preschool/childcare partnership grants to support families with full-day learning opportunities for kids. For CCAP, the Big Bold Ask requests $92 million over the biennium to begin phasing in investment for eligibility up to 200% of the federal poverty level, as well as higher reimbursement rates to support quality programs – for infants, toddlers, and preschool age children.

“Achieving high-quality early learning opportunities for all children requires additional investment – investment we cannot fully see in the Governor’s proposal,” said Ramsey. “This is critical when almost 50 percent of our children enter kindergarten not ready to learn, and 50% of Kentucky families live in a child care desert and quality child care is either non-existent or unaffordable for working parents.”

“It is critical that the Kentucky General Assembly ensures state funding for early childhood education,” said Ramsey.

In its blog post on the budget proposal, the Prichard Committee also points out a $2 million cut in tobacco settlement dollars to the HANDS early home visiting program.

“HANDS provides critical supports to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes, promote healthy child development, build safe homes, and increase families’ self-sufficiency, and we maintain that this investment must be restored,” said Ramsey.

Gov. Beshear’s proposal did call for an increase in the SEEK base guarantee per pupil and takes incremental steps toward creating a fund for teaching excellence as requested in the Big Bold Ask; however, funding for SEEK transportation and all-day kindergarten was absent.

“We are encouraged to see the governor’s commitment to teacher compensation and the recognition that teaching matters,” said Ramsey. “Our Big Bold Ask outlined a plan to fully fund transportation needs for districts and statewide all-day kindergarten, so that the local dollars that are currently funding it can be used for teaching and learning improvements. We will be working with legislators to help them find ways to make this possible.”

The following chart shows the breakdown of the Prichard Committee’s requested investments in K-12 over the next six years.

Higher Education
“The governor’s proposal to end postsecondary education cuts is an important move in the right direction, as far as our Big Bold Ask is concerned” said Ramsey. “While restoring base funding is paramount, it is equally critical to find a way to invest enough to fully fund the performance-based funding model which is showing positive outcomes for Kentucky’s future.”

Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education has set an attainment goal of 60% by 2030 for degrees and credentials, while economic projections suggest that the supply of workers with postsecondary education continues to fall short of the demand for an educated workforce. It is for this reason that a key component of the Big Bold Ask also calls for investments in tuition assistance grants like the College Access Program (CAP).

“To reach our goals, we must break down barriers to college access and ensure higher education remains affordable for all citizens,” said Ramsey. “We’re pleased that the Governor’s proposal keeps the promise of the Kentucky Lottery, by dedicating all funds to higher education. It is crucial that the Kentucky General Assembly keep this portion of the proposal in tact.”

The following chart shows the breakdown of requested Big Bold Ask investments in higher education over the next six years.

The Big Bold Ask

Kentucky remains challenged by persistent income inequality, ranking 44th among the states in the number of residents living in poverty. The Prichard Committee, which has been advocating for high quality education for all Kentuckians since 1983, crafted the Big Bold Ask with the expectation that state investments will help aid Kentuckians on a path from poverty to prosperity.

“The Prichard Committee looks forward to working with the members of the Kentucky General Assembly and Governor Beshear to strengthen our investment in education even more,” said Ramsey.

For additional commentary and a breakdown of all education components in the Governor’s budget proposal, please visit the Prichard Committee’s blog.