While Eastern Kentucky University is working to cut 10 percent from its budget, the cliche “everything is on the table” keeps getting repeated as the Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force goes about evaluating all of the university’s programs.
One of those EKU programs is Model Laboratory School, the only remaining school of its kind in the state. EKU’s continued funding of the school has been the subject of rumors since the university announced its reallocation plan.
However, the task force, which is still gathering information, has until April 30th to report its recommendations to the Board of Regents, said Marc Whitt, EKU spokesperson.
“Reporting any decision or possibility regarding Model prior to that date is premature,” he said.
But the topic of Model’s funding “appears to be misunderstood by most people and even misrepresented by a few,” said James Dantic, the school’s director.
He welcomed the opportunity to clarify how his school is financed, he said, as funds are drawn from multiple sources.
In Model’s 2012-13 budget, the school received $2.3 million in state and federal money (43.1 percent of the budget); almost $1.8 million from parents for tuition, book and technology fees (33.5 percent); and approximately $1.2 million from EKU (23.5 percent).
These amounts do not include what the university pays for the school’s maintenance costs. Model also does not receive funds from a local tax base.
“Model is the best deal on campus,” said former state representative and EKU employee Harry Moberly. “There is hardly any other unit on campus that has that big of an impact on Eastern students and has that much outside funding.”
Although “everything is on the table,” he said talks about cutting Model’s budget, or closing the school “is very short-sighted and lacks vision.”
Established in 1906 as part of the Eastern State Normal School, Model has always been a school where teachers were trained, Moberly said.
EKU students currently receive about 10,000 hours of undergraduate support from Model for a variety of education classes, Dantic said. This doesn’t include student-teaching hours.
Moberly was instrumental in passing the 1986 legislation allowing Model to strike a deal with the county school district to keep its doors open. This was at a time when the old Council on Higher Education (now Council on Post-secondary Education) no longer recommended funding for laboratory schools, Moberly said, and laboratory schools began to close all over the state.
But Model “always meant a lot to the community, and to the university and the (EKU) students who are trained there,” he said.
The 1986 agreement between the university and the school board designated Model as a “learning center” of the county district. Model’s student population would be counted in the county’s attendance reports, and Model’s allocation of state funding would be funneled through Madison County Schools.
Under the original 1986 agreement, the county schools would retain a $5,000 administrative fee along with the “power equalization” funds and capital funds generated by students attending Model within the county school district.
Both Dantic and Debbie Frazier, the county district’s chief finance officer, were uncertain about how Model’s portion of state funds — or “power equalization” funds — was originally determined.
However, when the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 restructured the funding of public education in Kentucky, an addendum to the 1986 agreement was required.
“Power Equalization is not specifically identified in the (newly formed) SEEK funding formula,” the addendum states. Therefore, Model’s allotment of state funds was calculated on a percentage ratio based on the schools’ 1989-90 state funding, then called “foundation allotment.”
During the 2011-12 school year, the county district retained nearly $283,000, or 12.7 percent, of Model’s $2.2 million in state SEEK and capital funds, along with the $5,000 administrative fee.
Model is permitted to keep all of its special-education funding, however, which was a little more than $326,000 last year.
Moberly recalled “a little bit of controversy in the community” after the passage of the bill in 1986. Some people thought Model students ought to be absorbed into the county system, which didn’t have room for them at that time, he said.