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KY public schools see decline in per-student funding; must make up difference locally or cut programs

Public News Service

State funding per student in Kentucky is on the decline with consequences for local school districts and communities, according to an analysis by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Ashley Spaulding, the center’s senior policy analyst, says the state education budget includes both state and federal dollars, and that the state’s portion of that funding has decreased by more than $120 per student since 2008.

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“It pushes more and more of the funding responsibilities onto local school districts, and you can really see that with transportation funding in the budget,” she points out. “It’s supposed to be funded at 100% by the state, and currently in 2019, it’s funded at just 66%.”

Spaulding says underfunded school districts must make up the difference with local dollars or cut critical programs and services.

She adds that many Kentucky schools have been forced to reduce course offerings, school services and staff levels.

Research shows that shrinking state funding for schools worsens education inequalities between low-income and wealthier communities.

Spaulding notes that communities with more capital can often make up the difference.

“Wealthier school districts are able to raise more local revenue and to make up for those cuts than the poorer school districts,” she states.

Spaulding says what comes out of the legislative session, which begins at the start of next year, will determine whether or not the state begins to reverse a decade of education cuts or continues the trend.

“It may be very daunting for lawmakers to face where we really are with education funding,” she acknowledges. “We need to raise additional revenue in order to invest in our schools, in our kids and in our classrooms.”

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, the state’s more than 1,400 public schools received more than $5 million combined from the state and the federal government last year.

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