by Valarie Honeycutt Spears
Kentucky continues to undermine state funding for K-12 education, once again landing in the bottom 3 states for cuts to core school funding since the Great Recession, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
CBPP’s report shows that when it comes to cuts in core formula funding for elementary and secondary schools since 2008, Kentucky has cut funding per student by 15.8 percent, once adjusted for inflation. Only Oklahoma and Texas rank worse. The commonwealth is one of seven states that cut core funding as recently as this past fiscal year. Only Mississippi and West Virginia cut more in the latest fiscal year.
“States must invest in their schools, so that children can receive the education they need to succeed in life,” said Kenny Colston, communications director for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “With looming pension obligations, this report is once again evidence of the need to clean up the tax code of special interest loopholes to help Kentucky reinvest in our state’s schools, among other needs.”
This erosion in support for K-12 education has damaging economic consequences for the state — both now and in the future. School cuts can undermine proven education reforms such as reducing class sizes, improving teacher quality, increasing learning time and expanding early childhood education.
The state cuts have meant more pressure on Kentucky’s local school districts. Poorer districts, especially those in the struggling coal fields, simply cannot compensate for the lost revenue. Many districts are having to make difficult budget decisions about reducing or eliminating staff, student supports, courses, and art and music programs. In addition, many are unable to give staff raises or meet facility needs.
According to Michael Taylor, superintendent of Fairview Independent Schools in Ashland, Ky., the cuts have already had devastating effects.
“The district has had to reduce classified and certified staff to the bare minimum. We cannot cut personnel any further and still operate as a school district,” Taylor said. “We have been unable to purchase new buses to replace old ones that require constant maintenance to keep operating.”
Another superintendent, Debbie Stephens of Elliott County Schools, said the cuts have already affected student/teacher ratios.
“We have been unable to maintain the number of staff that enables us to keep our student/teacher ratio numbers as low as we would like,” Stephens said. “We are also unable to provide up-to-date instructional resources (especially textbooks) for many of our classrooms. Finally, we often must postpone and prioritize facilities needs and are unable to make needed repairs in a timely manner.”
Cuts in funding for schools weakens the economy in the long term. Quality elementary, middle and high school education provides a crucial foundation that helps children to succeed in college and in the workplace. Much of the money they earn as adults is returned to the state economy through taxes and spending at local businesses. In addition, school budgets that force school layoffs or cut pay for teachers and other staff can reduce purchasing power and slow the pace of the economic recovery.
by Adrienne Bush, director, Housing and Homeless Coalition of Kentucky
Remember building a house of cards when you were a kid? The more weight you added, the likelier it was to come toppling down.
For thousands of Kentucky families, life feels a lot like that house of cards – and keeping everything together is far from child’s play. As director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky, I see firsthand how hard Kentucky families work to afford a place to call home. Too many juggle multiple jobs and still come up short in paying for the basics, like rent, groceries and school supplies. Too many are stretching thin paychecks to care for kids and aging or sick relatives at the same time.
For more than 84,000 Kentucky families – and 5 million like them across the country – federal funding for housing and homeless prevention programs is essential to helping them keep a roof over their heads. That’s why we’re profoundly worried about the federal tax proposal currently in front of the Senate, which threatens to push already vulnerable households to disaster’s brink.
This tax proposal would increase federal deficits by at least $1.4 trillion over the coming decade. The higher deficits that would result from the plan would ultimately have to be paid for. Congressional Republicans have made clear that they intend to come back next year and try to pay for these tax cuts by cutting programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Head Start, housing assistance and college aid.
And they’ve already told us how they’d make these cuts. The President’s budget for this fiscal year proposed cutting aid for homeless people by $133 million, eliminating funding for more than 250,000 Housing Choice Vouchers and raising rents by a total of $4 billion on four million poor families, seniors and people with disabilities. The 2018 House and Senate budget resolutions called for trillions of dollars in cuts over ten years to programs that help Kentuckians afford the basics such as food, health care and a roof over their heads. The human toll of such moves would be disastrous: threatening the fragile stability of millions of people who work hard to build decent lives for themselves and their children.
Nearly 9 out of 10 households using housing vouchers include seniors, people with disabilities or children. My staff and I see the real lives behind these statistics every day. We know the guy who made a good living before his accident in the mine, and now scrambles to pay the bills on minimum wage. We know the single mom working two jobs to pay for child care, food and rent. We know the elderly woman who counts on Meals on Wheels to eat. We know the grandparents raising their grandchildren. We, along with our fellow housing providers, know the 215 literally homeless people in Central Kentucky waiting for housing assistance. We know the housing needs of our most vulnerable neighbors across the commonwealth.
The work we do with Kentuckians across the state makes clear to us that families who face the steepest odds now face a double jeopardy. First, the proposed tax plan will raise taxes on low-income Kentuckians. And then, when federal deficits rise due to the huge tax cuts for the wealthy, Congress will make draconian cuts to essential support programs, including Medicaid, Medicare and SNAP, which ensures children don’t go hungry.
Housing, food assistance and health care may be different line items in a federal budget. But for a family’s budget, they’re all part of a careful balancing act. Take away one, and the rest could come crashing down.
So this month, Congress has a decision to make. Will they pass a tax plan that will push those living on the margins over the edge? Or will they reject this approach and keep our most vulnerable citizens on the path to stability, with the dignity of a roof over their heads, food to eat, and care when they’re ill?
Voters like me, my staff, our members across the Commonwealth, and thousands of everyday Kentuckians like us are watching – and waiting for Congress to do the right thing.
Adrienne Bush is the Director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
by Kate Howard
To Kentucky’s Congressional Delegation,
We, the undersigned organizations representing charitable and nonprofit organizations in Kentucky, write to express our deep concern about the new tax cut bill unveiled by House and Senate leaders. We urge you to reject the recently proposed tax plans and work on a bipartisan basis to craft a responsible and equitable tax proposal.
Our organizations serve people from all walks of life, including the most vulnerable communities and individuals in Kentucky. We serve seniors, at-risk youth, people with disabilities, and people and families who struggle to make ends meet. This tax proposal would make life harder for many people we serve, and hamstring our ability to make a difference in their lives and advance our missions.
The House bill would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit by primarily cutting taxes for the wealthy and profitable corporations. The higher deficits that would result from the bill would drive up the national debt, worsen the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook, and ultimately have to be paid for. Everyday Kentuckians are likely to foot the bill through cuts to programs that help their families and our economy, including food assistance, education programs, help for poor seniors and people with disabilities, and tax credits for working families who struggle to get by.
We strongly disagree with this approach. We should be closing tax loopholes and making other responsible tax changes, not creating deficit increases that will force cuts to effective federal programs and investments.
In addition, tax policies should invest in working Kentuckians and families. Yet, for example, low-income working adults without children and non-custodial parents are largely excluded from the bill’s tax cuts and will continue to be entirely or largely shut out from the pro-work Earned Income Tax Credit, meaning that millions would continue to be taxed into or deeper into poverty by federal income and payroll taxes. In fact, the plan as designed in the Senate would raise taxes on average for low and middle-income Kentuckians in order to help pay for large tax cuts for the very wealthy.
Kentuckians and their families deserve a tax plan that will improve their lives, not make things harder. For all of these reasons, we urge you to oppose this harmful tax bill and work instead on a bipartisan approach that does not lead to future spending cuts by losing revenue or increasing deficits and does not harm low- and middle-income families through a regressive tax structure.
Advocacy Action Network
Community Action Council
Franklin County NAACP
Housing & Homelessness Coalition of Kentucky
Jefferson County Teachers Association
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Kentucky Council of Churches
Kentucky Education Association
Kentucky Equal Justice Center
Kentucky Voices for Health
Mental Health America of Kentucky
Mountain Association for Community & Economic Development
Muslim Americans For Compassion
National Association of Social Workers Kentucky Chapter
Parents for Social Justice
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership
The Women’s Network of Kentucky
United Food & Commercial Workers 227
Urban League of Lexington
Like the top-heavy tax cut plan passed in the House last week, the plan now in front of the Senate would shift taxes away from millionaires and corporations and over to low- and middle income Kentuckians while setting the stage for deep cuts to the budgetary programs and services that help Kentucky’s communities thrive.
Senate Plan Slashes Taxes at the Top, Increases Taxes for Low and Middle-Income Kentuckians
Senators will return to Capitol Hill next week after the Thanksgiving recess for a potential vote on their revised plan. According to estimates from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), the bottom 60 percent of Kentuckians, who make an average of $37,500 a year, will actually face more taxes from the plan with an average increase of $80 in 2027. High earners, in contrast, would receive tax cuts — especially the wealthiest, with the richest 1 percent receiving an average cut of $4,760. The top 1 percent of Kentuckians based on income will take home 24 percent of the total tax cut in 2019.
Plan Pays for Tax Breaks for Ultra-Wealthy by Hurting Most Everyone Else
A big reason the plan is so top-heavy is that it goes to great lengths to permanently cut the top corporate income tax (CIT) rate from 35 to 20 percent, the benefits of which would flow primarily to the wealthiest domestic and foreign owners of corporate stocks. The plan also temporarily deeply cuts the estate tax, eliminates the alternative minimum tax for high-income earners and cuts taxes for corporations organized as pass-through entities.
Recent changes by the Senate Finance Committee pay for the tax cuts including by:
- Repealing the ACA’s individual mandate. This measure would leave 13 million fewer Americans insured, destabilize the individual market and raise premiums by an estimated 10 percent for millions more. Passing the Alexander-Murray bill, as some have expressed interest in doing and which attempts to stabilize the market, would not undo the damage of an individual mandate repeal. The savings to the federal government from reducing the number of people with health care would cover about a third of the cost of the reduction in the corporate rate.
- Permanently changing the way income tax provisions like the standard deduction and tax brackets are inflated (which is done to preserve their value over time). By opting for a slower-growing inflator, the “chained CPI,” the value of these provisions will erode and more of Kentuckians’ income will be taxed.
- Ending or “sunsetting” other individual income changes made in the plan in 2025 such as the doubled standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions and Child Tax Credit expansion that leaves 43 percent of children in working Kentucky families behind. By themselves, these provisions and their sunsets create winners and losers out of Kentucky families. Combined with the slower inflator and individual mandate repeal among other changes, the plan will leave the bottom 60 percent of Kentucky families worse off in 2027.
Even with these big “pay-fors,” the Senate plan would still substantially increase the federal deficit, potentially forcing spending cuts to essential investments in Kentucky families and communities through Medicare, Social Services, and student loans as early as next year. The President and members of Congress are already saying the next step in their plan is to make cuts to safety net programs like Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and Medicaid. And discretionary spending on low-income housing assistance, education, community development, child care and many other important programs is in danger of further spending cuts on top of those under the budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestration. In other words, the plan’s forced spending cuts would hurt all Kentuckians and our communities, but especially the most vulnerable.
From the individual components to the overall impact, the Senate’s tax plan is clearly designed to provide a huge tax break for those at the top. The House’s passed plan is no better, meaning that if the Senate passes their bill and the chambers go to conference, the potential consequences to the commonwealth and the entire U.S. are difficult to overstate.
The vast majority of Kentuckians would be worse off under recent federal tax cut proposals. Far from benefiting the average Kentuckian, the plans would put fiscal pressure on already strained public programs and leave behind nearly 40 percent of children in working families from the Child Tax Credit expansion. Its tax cuts are focused on the very wealthiest, with the top 1 percent in Kentucky bringing in 40 percent of the value of the tax cuts by 2027, even while taxes would go up for more than 1 in 5 middle- to upper-middle income Kentuckians.
Top-heavy tax cuts don’t spur the economy as some suggest. Worse, $1.5 trillion in tax cuts would jeopardize federal mandatory and discretionary programs vital to Kentucky. Using the increased deficit as justification, Congress would later attempt to make deep cuts to programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, Pell grants, HUD housing assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit and others.
To see how critical investments help Kentuckians in your Congressional District, and the how the federal tax proposals jeopardize them, select your district below: