The Richmond Register

February 18, 2014

Funding education is critical for Kentucky and its communities

Dr. Kevin Cosby
Guest Columnist

LOUISVILLE — Kentucky’s latest budget outline makes it clear that our leaders in Frankfort plan to go to great lengths to find more money for education. For communities throughout the commonwealth, this effort to restore funds for our schools is very welcomed news.

While Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was ultimately the one to present this initiative, the efforts to restore education investments have received a strong blessing from many of our conservative leaders as well. Our schools are facing difficulty. As a result of five years of state funding cuts, many schools have faced the prospect of laying off of teachers, overcrowding classrooms, and allowing their resources and technology to deteriorate.

In our nation’s capital, the federal bipartisan agreement seeks to bring some of the same relief that our nation’s schools desperately need. The funding measure restores over $1 billion in sequester cuts to education, and prioritizes a number of early learning programs. However, funds for many critical programs either remained reduced or were kept below pre-recession levels.

Failing to restore support for areas like School Improvement grants, Promise Neighborhood grants, disability education funding, and rural education support is especially saddening because it means that less fortunate communities and their families will continue to be disproportionately harmed. These programs expand opportunities to learn for all students and are crucial for helping narrow gaps in income and achievement among our citizens.

Fostering an environment for the next generation to reach their God-given potential is a fundamental principle for those who believe in liberty. Cultivating a strong and free society must continue to be a core principle for Republicans. Achieving that end will require us to fully secure our education systems. In Kentucky, many areas have grown less reliant on traditional economic means, leaving many individuals at risk. Neglecting to properly invest in education could translate to advancing poverty, higher crime, and perpetuating the need for a social safety net.

In my years serving as a pastor in the Louisville area I have witnessed the value in building resilient communities through education. These essential public services have the capacity to inspire individuals to strive for greater personal growth and more disciplined and fulfilling lifestyles – similar values that undergird our state’s faith community.

The next generation of students will only be able to make these strides in achievement if our education systems are adequately supported. This means that our Republican leaders must secure critical learning programs so that students can succeed at a young age and then go on to obtain the knowledge and skills they need for the future.

Those with the opportunity to complete a university-level degree ultimately enhance their position as the economy and the world around us transitions. Those with a college degree, including first-generation graduates, are far less likely to lose their jobs and typically find greater income mobility throughout their lives.

Currently, many schools, colleges, and libraries are seeking to restore their funding in order to provide the best opportunities to our students. In Kentucky, nearly 700,000 students attend public elementary and secondary schools – a figure that is only expected to rise. As classrooms become more crowded, the loss of teachers only becomes more problematic. In fact, the commonwealth would need to add nearly 2,000 teachers to match the student to teacher ratio from just five years ago.

As a cornerstone of Kentucky, strong education systems help to meet many conservative ideals by positively influencing personal and community development. To maintain this strength, our leaders in Washington, and here at home, must make the right investments in our schools.

Dr. Kevin Cosby is the president of Simmons College of Kentucky, a historically black college based in Louisville. He is also the senior pastor at St. Stephen’s Baptist Church, a 14,000 member congregation that serves Louisville, Hardin County and Southern Indiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University, a master’s degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate from United Theological Seminary.