Kentucky is one of 35 states in which inflation-adjusted per student state funding for K-12 education is lower this school year than it was in 2008, according to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The report calculates that Kentucky’s core state funding for local schools has declined by 8.5 percent, or $399 per student, between 2008 and 2013. 26 states—including Kentucky—have deepened the already steep cuts to education over the last year. School funding per student in Kentucky decreased by 1.4 percent between fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
These cuts are associated with a range of negative consequences. Kentucky reduced the number of teachers and other certified staff in its schools between 2011 and 2012, cuts that are harmful to the economy as well as to the quality of education schools are able to provide. In many cases, the cuts counteract and sometimes undermine state education reform initiatives by limiting the funds available to improve schools and also by cutting specific reform initiatives. State education cuts are especially deep in areas not included in the Kentucky estimate, such as professional development, family resource and youth services centers, and textbooks.
State budget cuts are also putting additional pressure on property taxes and other local revenues, and several school districts are at least considering property tax increases. As highlighted in the report, Jefferson County’s school board has increased property taxes for the fifth year in a row to make up for declining funding.
These cuts are the result of several factors. State revenues remain depressed as the economy is slowly recovering. Costs are rising as more K-12 students are enrolling. States have avoided raising new revenues. And the federal government allowed emergency aid to states to expire prematurely.
As recommended in the report, restoring K-12 education funding should be an urgent priority for Kentucky. In order to do so without cutting other important state services, the state will need tax reforms that raise revenue.