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Prichard Committee: Presenting a Big, Bold ask for additional funding for critical needs in education

During the upcoming legislative session, the Prichard Committee has a Big, Bold Ask: $1 billion in additional funding by 2026 to address critical needs in education – from early childhood to postsecondary.

The Prichard Committee, a statewide citizens’ education advocacy organization, is calling on state leaders to move forward with key investments across education, including:

Early childhood – Investing in childcare assistance and preschool to expand high-quality early learning for 33,000 Kentucky children a year and helping their families stay in the workforce.

K-12 – Full funding from the state for all-day kindergarten and school transportation costs – freeing up local taxpayer dollars to be used strategically by local districts to increase academic outcomes. And, a new Fund for Teaching Excellence to support increased teaching quality in priority areas like third grade reading and mathematics – because teaching matters most.

Higher education – Fully funding the performance-based funding model, which has increased students staying in school and graduating; and increasing need-based financial support for Kentucky’s low-income learners, many of whom are first generation college students.

“To deliver the promise of education excellence for every Kentuckian, the Commonwealth must reverse years of budget cuts and lost buying power,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee.

Brigitte Blom Ramsey

Since the Great Recession in 2008, state investments have plummeted 33% in our colleges and universities; dropped 12% in our K-12 per-pupil base guarantee; and have been inadequate to ensure high-quality early learning opportunities for our youngest children.

“Reaching our goal won’t be accomplished in a series of small steps and tradeoffs. A big, bold – and comprehensive – ask is required, one that funds education across the talent pipeline. The big, bold ask the Prichard Committee is making is to increase state investments in education – early childhood through postsecondary – by $1 billion by 2026,” she added.

Ramsey acknowledged that the state faces funding challenges but noted that the natural growth in the general fund will accommodate this increased investment as a core responsibility of state government. Nothing is more critical than education to improving Kentuckians’ lives, economic circumstances, and the development of our state.

Kentucky has made some gains in education over the years, “but our poverty rate has been consistently worse than that of the nation and our competitor states since the 1980s. It is still only five spots from rock bottom.”

The state needs to rethink its investment strategies to tackle poverty and low household income and achieve true progress in economic growth and education, Ramsey said. In addition, many middle-class families make too much money to qualify for aid but too little to afford the high costs of tuition for child care and college.

Recognizing that progress won’t happen overnight, she said it is long past time for Kentucky to start on a different path and outlined the following as areas where the Prichard Committee will focus its advocacy efforts in the coming months.
• High-quality early learning for all children, which is the foundation for future academic success.
• Reinvestment in higher education to achieve the goal of more than 60 percent of Kentuckians having a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. “If we want an immediate and dedicated strategy to increase sustainable and self-reliant household income, meeting this goal as soon as possible is an imperative,” Ramsey said.
• Investments in teachers to help them perform their craft with great expertise must be continued and strengthened.

The committee will push for specific investments over the next six years in programs that research has shown have the greatest potential to deliver positive results. The focus will be on building these investments over multiple years:

• $251 million for childcare assistance
• $80 million for preschool
• $140 million for all-day kindergarten
• 162 million for school transportation
• $58 million for the Fund for Teaching Excellence
• $311 million for performance-based funding for postsecondary education
• $30 million for needs-based College Access Program grants.

“These investments would begin in fiscal year 2021 and grow through fiscal 2026,” Ramsey said. “They would reverse years of budget cuts and declining state investments in the area that is most critical to ensuring the success of our state and its citizens: education.”

A detailed breakout of the proposed investment framework is available here.

“Further, we must recognize the nagging reality of deep poverty and the fact that too many Kentuckians are not on a path to a successful life,” she added. “Only by embracing a more comprehensive approach that fully links education and the progress of Kentucky’s economy will we create the new possibilities our state so greatly needs. Higher household incomes, better health and a better qualified, larger work force will be the result of this investment.”

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