The Richmond Register

State News

January 4, 2014

Funding education area of debate, concern

FRANKFORT — Since 1990, Kentucky has been viewed as a leader in education reform, first with passage of the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990 and then with passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2009.

A key part of KERA was a new funding formula designed to comply with court rulings requiring “adequate and equitable” funding for all districts, using state money to boost poorer districts’ per pupil funding to a level roughly equal to the state’s richest districts.

Since 2009, basic funding for public schools, called SEEK, has been frozen while enrollment increased, producing an effective cut in per pupil funding of about $500. During the same period of tight state budgets, funding for teacher development has been cut 65 percent; after school services cut 61 percent; technology funding cut 21 percent and funding for textbooks eliminated.

Gov. Steve Beshear wants to change that in the next two-year budget. The Kentucky Department of Education is asking for an increase of $152 million next year and $183 million in the second year. But the state revenues are expected to rise by only $550 million over those two years and education isn’t the state’s only funding need.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, suggested that growing property valuations will allow local districts to increase their share of school funding to offset some of the needed increase, but others say that won’t work.

SEEK combines local property taxes with state funding in a complicated formula designed to “equalize” funding between rich and poor districts. Before KERA there were wide disparities between affluent districts which raised more in local taxes for schools and poor districts which were often loathe to raise property taxes. In the late 1980s, 61 districts sued and won a court decision throwing out the old system because the state constitution required funding for “common schools” to be equitable and adequate.

SEEK requires a “minimum local effort” to encourage poor districts to raise money for their schools. In return, the state funds the difference between those amounts and what richer districts can raise to produce roughly equal funding per pupil in all 173 districts. Every district receives sine state funding but poor districts receive a higher percentage of the total from the state.

Districts may raise additional funding beyond that minimal level if their voters approve higher tax rates. But the state doesn’t match all those extra dollars. KERA also “grandfathered” some rich districts with higher rates so they weren’t required to roll back local taxes.

When KERA was passed in 1990, the gap between the richest district and the poorest was $1,600 per student, primarily because of those grandfathered rates. By 1997, SEEK had reduced the gap to $600. But it is growing again as lawmakers froze SEEK funding at 2009 levels. In 2010, the gap was $1,200.

On Friday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said relying more on local property increases would lead to more inequity between districts, the situation which led the courts to declare Kentucky’s pre-KERA school funding system unconstitutional.

Property valuations have increased 2 percent statewide, said Hiren Desai, associate commissioner of education. But that is fueled largely by increases in affluent counties such as Boone, Kenton, Jefferson, Fayette and Warren. Valuations haven’t grown much in eastern Kentucky, which includes both Stivers’ and Stumbo’s legislative districts.

So a 4 percent increase in property taxes in Whitley County in Stivers’ senatorial district wouldn’t generate as much as a 4 percent increase in Kenton County.

An analysis of by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, based in Berea, lays out the differences for all 173 districts.

If all school districts raised local property taxes by 4 percent, the state’s most affluent district, Anchorage in Jefferson County, would receive about $457 more for each student. But Whitley County would have only $22 more per pupil, according to KCEP’s analysis.

The largest per pupil increase in any of the six counties in Stivers’ district would be $39 in Knox County and in Corbin. Wolfe County would get only $20 more per student.

Stivers said Friday those differences would be offset by the state portion of funding for those districts, but Jason Bailey, KCEP Director, said the amounts in the analysis are net changes including both state and local funds.

That’s because the SEEK formula ties state funding to local tax efforts, Bailey said. If local taxes exceed the minimally required local taxing effort, the state doesn’t chip in as much.

“If it weren’t designed that way, why would any district raise local taxes?” Bailey asked. “They’d just let the state provide the funding.”

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
State News
  • 7-1 Warren-Grimes 1.jpg Warren blasts McConnell on economic issues

    Elizabeth Warren said here Sunday that Kentucky voters have a simple choice this fall in the nation’s most important election.
    They can re-elect Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who the Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Senator said represents the interests of the wealthy and says “no, no, no” to measures to assist the middle class.

    June 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Healthcare signup in state extended

    While the national health exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — known to some as Obamacare — suffered glitches, crashes and delays, the Kentucky-run exchange, Kynect, often was cited as a national model.
    Nevertheless, those in Kentucky who didn’t sign up before the March 31 deadline will have a second chance to enroll.

    April 3, 2014

  • House sends $20.3 million budget to Senate

    It took four hours and it won’t last long in its present form when it reaches the Republican-controlled state Senate, but the House passed a $20.3 billion, two-year budget late Thursday on largely, but not entirely, party lines.

    March 13, 2014

  • Right-to-work bill dies in House panel

    The sponsor of a right-to-work law in Kentucky knew it had no chance of passing a House committee Thursday.

    March 13, 2014

  • Feds deny giving OK to selenium standards

    When lawmakers wrestled last year with new standards for releasing selenium into streams by coal mines and industry, they were assured by state officials the proposals were based on sound science and approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials.

    March 7, 2014

  • Senate panel OKs trial use of cannabis oil

    Rita Wooten and her husband Ricky face an excruciating choice: watch their 4-year-old son suffer from repeated seizures — or violate the law in order to help him.

    February 26, 2014

  • Two honored for work with sexually abused

    It’s Erica Brown Myers’ job to help those who have been victimized by sexual abuse. But helping others can take a toll on the helper as well as the victim.

    February 26, 2014

  • Paul asks Senate for help in 2016 quandary

    Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul last week asked Republican state senators to try to repeal a Kentucky law that bars anyone from appearing on the same ballot for more than one office.

    February 24, 2014

  • Republican party split on display in Cave City

    Splits in the Kentucky Republican Party were subtly on display here Saturday evening – if you knew what to watch.

    Around 400 gathered at the Cave City Convention Center for the annual Barren County Lincoln Day Dinner but this one was different from past dinners.

    February 24, 2014

  • Comer positioning with gubernatorial politicking

    The roughly 400 Republicans at Saturday night’s Barren County Lincoln Day Dinner here were primarily focused on the U.S. Senate race and Republican hopes to take over the state House of Representatives this fall.

    February 24, 2014

AP Video
Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

What county fair attraction do you like most?

Amusement rides
Beauty pageants
Flora Hall craft exhibits
Horse shows
Livestock, poultry shows
Truck, tractor pulls
Mud, dirt races
Gospel sing
I like them all
     View Results