A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Stu Silberman: Our Kids Can't Wait – need better funding for Kentucky schools now


The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence held its Education Summit in Lexington this week, bringing together hundreds of education advocates from across the state. Speaking on behalf of KEAT (Kentucky Education Action Team) advocates, Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee, kicked off the summit:
 

A 4-year-old in Eastern Kentucky cannot attend a public preschool like her older brother did. Her parents don’t have the money to enroll her in a high quality private program.
 

Stu Silberman

Stu Silberman

A high school junior in Southern Kentucky cannot take home his algebra II textbook like he did when he was in middle school. The internet connection is so slow that he’s given up trying to use it. He worries about passing the end-of-course exam.
 

A high school student in Northern Kentucky hoped to attend college on a band scholarship but is seeing that hope fade as his high school eliminated its marching band.
 

A middle school student in Western Kentucky struggles with English, which has always been challenging for her. When she was in first grade, she had tutoring through Extended School Services (ESS) and that helped her catch up. But it’s no longer available at her school.
 

All these students suffer the impact of reductions in the state’s funding for their learning. Even without this support, Kentucky expects them to learn more than we have ever expected of any previous generation of students. The General Assembly took an important step in 2009 by mandating higher standards for our students, better student testing, and better ways of reporting student learning.
 

At the same time we demand more from our students, their needs are growing. More students live in poverty and need extra support to succeed. Over the last six years, the state’s financial support for our children has not kept up with those demands. Funding has also not kept up with increased costs of everything from food to fuel to personnel.
 

(From KEAT)

(From KEAT)


 

State funding for specific programs has been drastically cut. It has been eliminated for textbooks and other learning materials. At the time when teachers need the most help to upgrade their skills to meet the increased demands, state funding for their professional development has been reduced by two-thirds.
 

Other sources of funding for our students have also been declining. Federal funding is shrinking. To make up for the decline in revenue, some local districts have resorted to increasing property taxes. However, this results in funding inequity between wealthy versus poor districts, a situation which was deemed unconstitutional and led to the Kentucky Education Reform Act.
 

The good news for Kentuckians is that our schools are a great investment. Our students score at the national average in 4th grade mathematics and about the national average in 4th and 8th grade reading and science. Education Week now rates Kentucky’s schools in the top ten nationally.
 

Education Week also gives Kentucky its lowest grade – an “F” – in only one category – funding. Our students and schools cannot maintain these levels of learning without addition state funding.
 

Over the last six years, the state funding for many of the programs that support our students’ learning has declined precipitously. We cannot expect students to learn without textbooks and other learning materials, without preschool, and without extra help to catch up. Their teachers cannot help them when funding for their own learning has evaporated.
 

The members of the Kentucky Education Action Team (KEAT) call on the leaders of the Commonwealth to commit additional state revenue for our students. KEAT’s priorities for funding mirror those of the Kentucky Board of Education and Kentucky Department of Education:
 

‣ Restore funding for the basic school funding formula to 2008-09 levels;
‣ Restore support for textbooks, preschool, safe schools programs, teachers’ professional development and tutoring to 2007-08 levels.
‣ Provide funding for technology to increase capacity and speed so students can connect to the instructional tools they need.
 

KEAT represents close to 155,000 Kentuckians in every community of the state. We pledge assistance in building a groundswell of support among Kentuckians to commit these funds to our students.
 

As a possibility for generating revenue for our students, KEAT supports the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform. We also support putting gaming on the ballot to let Kentucky voters decide.
 

The members of the Kentucky Education Action Team look forward to working with members of the general Assembly, the Governor, and other supporters of our students to assure their future and that of the Commonwealth.
 

The needs of our students, schools and state are urgent. The time to act is now. Our kids can’t wait.
 

Members of KEAT are the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky Association of School Councils, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, Kentucky PTA, Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, Kentucky School Boards Association, and the Prichard Committee.


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