Educators strategize ways to convince legislators to raise school funding at least back to '08 levels

11/21/2013 06:28 PM

LEXINGTON – Strides that the commonwealth has made in student test scores, advanced placement classes and curriculum changes are at risk of being reversed unless state funding levels are raised, education leaders said Thursday.

The challenge, though, will be convincing lawmakers to do that amid all the other funding needs — Medicaid, public employee pensions and social services — as the next two-year budget is crafted starting in January. So educators began their strategizing about to how to do that during Thursday’s summit on education funding sponsored by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and the Kentucky Education Access Team (KEAT).

Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee, told the group of superintendents, principals, teachers and parents that while Kentucky has been recognized nationally for making strides in test scores and curriculum, Kentucky also gets low grades for the level of funding per student.

“Our students and our schools can not maintain these levels of learning without additional state funding,” said Silberman.

School districts have seen the funding drop from $3,866 per student in 2008 to the current total of $3,827 per year. Lawmakers and the governor tried to keep the funding levels static over the last five years during the recession. But increased enrollment without an increase in funding effectively amounted to cuts.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday’s message to legislators is to
return the funding level to where it was in 2008.

“Ladies and gentleman of the General Assembly, if you don’t invest in education, the nose dive will happen quicker than the rise happened,” Holliday said.

Holliday said funding shortfalls have been particularly tough on teachers who must make due with out of date textbooks and limited supplies.

“You go all over this state, teachers are begging, borrowing, stealing, they’re going anywhere they can to get materials to give to kids,” Holliday said.

The lack of funding is also crippling many districts, pushing a few toward bankruptcy, Holliday said.

The Kentucky Department had to take over the Breathitt County School District and at the end of this past school year. And the cash-strapped Monticello School District was forced to close and merge with Wayne County.

“We’ve got about 10 districts — as I look at them — they could be headed toward bankruptcy in the next 12-18 months if something doesn’t happen,” Holliday said.

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said that engaging legislators by phone and in person is an effective way to try to get increased funding for Kentucky’s students.

Abramson spent all of 2012 heading up a task force to recommend ways to revamp Kentucky’s tax code so that state revenue can grow better with the economy. The group of business leaders and education and health advocates suggested concepts like spreading Kentucky’s 6 percent sales tax to certain services and lowering income tax rates.

With those recommendations currently sitting in a binder and not being pushed by Gov. Steve Beshear or lawmakers, Abramson urged educators to launch their own lobbying effort to get more money from Frankfort.

“Nothing’s going to happen unless we get involved.”

About Don Weber

Don Weber joined cn|2 when it launched back in May 2010 and soon became a reporter for Pure Politics. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and has spent many years covering everything from politics to sports. Don says he loves meeting new people everyday as part of his job and also enjoys the fact that no two days are the same when he comes to work. Don Weber can be reached at donald.weber@twcnews.com.

Comments

  • Bill Huff wrote on November 22, 2013 01:44 PM :

    YOU DO THE MATH? REP STUMBO SAYS NO TAX REFORM WILL BE IN 2014-2016 BIENNIUM BUDGET. YOU LOOK AT KY’S BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF DEBT AND DECIDE IF KY CAN AFFORD REP STUMBO’S KY ECONOMIC PLAN FOR 2014-2016?

    $01.9 billion dollar general fund deficit:
    $08.2 billion dollar bonded indebtedness:
    $19.0 billion dollar state retiree legislators underfunded
    $700 million unemployment deficit;
    $29,800,000,000 ESTIMATED 2014-2016 TOTAL DEBT:

    RECOMMENDATION TO DEAL WITH $29.8 BILLION DOLLAR DEFICITS:

    (1)cut $200 million of administrative non-merit personnel;
    (2)cut $400 million of corporate tax shelters;
    (3)cut $350 million of state tax expenditures such as tax exemptions, deferments, exclusions, credits, deductions and preferential tax rates; A.The state of Kentucky’s own report identifies 287 tax expenditures (rought valued at $1 billion dollars) that collectively result in about as much lost General Fund revenue as the state takes in each year.
    (4)collect estimated $300 million of motor vehicle property, usage, titling registration tax evasion;
    (5)elimination of truck weight-distance tax;
    (6)pass Rep Wayne’s tax reform bill;

    A)Update income tax range for fairness;
    B)Kentuckians making $75,000 or more equalize their tax burden with others;
    C)Provide 15% earned tax credit for poor people;
    D)Tax services used by wealthy people;
    E)restore “death tax” on all estates valued at million or more;
    F)Eliminate PERSONAL & COMPANY INCOME TAXES; 1.States like North Carolina, which has grown as much as or more than any other in the South in recent years, have shown that dependence on a robust income tax coupled with adequate public investment can help rather than deter economic development
    G)cut sales tax rate from 6.0% to 5.5%;
    H)extend sales tax to most personeal and professional services especially commercial real estate leases;

    (7)add “selected services” to obsolete Ky tax base:

  • Bill Huff wrote on November 22, 2013 01:52 PM :

    Testimony on HB 318: Tax Reform
    March 1, 2011

    Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
    Jason Bailey, Director

    Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Jason Bailey, and I am Director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

    Three strengths of HB 318:

    First, it closes growing holes in our tax system by modernizing it to a changing economy and changing demographics.

    The state’s own report identifies 287 tax expenditures that collectively result in about as much lost General Fund revenue as the state takes in each year. The bill begins to address that problem by eliminating deductions that disproportionately benefit the wealthy (as 14 other states do), expanding the sales tax to services in a targeted way, and phasing out the private pension exclusion at higher income levels—an exclusion that currently costs Kentucky $235 million and will cost more as the population ages.

    Secondly, HB 318 looks for revenue where the ability to pay has increased the most.

    It is among high earners that incomes have grown and federal tax cuts have been the largest.

    Over the last twenty years, the wealthiest 20 percent of Kentucky families saw their real incomes increase 41 percent on average.

    The poorest 20 percent of Kentucky families had no statistically significant change in their real incomes over that period.

    At the same time, the extension of the federal tax cuts that Congress agreed to in December 2010 means highest-earning five percent of Kentuckians are receiving $1 billion in federal income tax cuts this year.

    HB 318 asks more from those who have benefitted the most. But the net result of the bill is not to make Kentucky’s overall tax system progressive, or even flat. It just makes it a little less regressive than it already is.

    Those tax increases will be partially subsidized by the federal government. Deductibility means those in the top bracket get a 35 cent federal tax decrease for every $1 increase in state taxes.

    Thirdly, HB 318 supports economic recovery in the short-term and economic development in the long-term.

    Recovery Act monies go away this summer, while the economy (and therefore revenue) still has a long way to go until it reaches pre-recession strength.

    In a short time this body will be crafting a new budget for the next biennium; those 22 states that have projected revenues for 2013 are showing continued serious budget shortfalls. If we will be crafting a tight budget in Kentucky as well, we should keep in mind that the strongest positive impacts on the economic recovery come from assistance to middle- and low-income families and from avoiding deep state budget cuts.

    In the long run, states like North Carolina, which has grown as much as or more than any other in the South in recent years, have shown that dependence on a robust income tax coupled with adequate public investment can help rather than deter economic development.

    HB 318 supports working families with lower marginal rates and an earned income tax credit. And by better aligning the tax system with future growth in the economy, the bill helps protect the investments Kentucky needs.

    I urge you to pick up the conversation that HB 318 advances and lead the state in developing a tax reform package for the 2012 General Assembly that can move us forward.

    Would you agree this same economic philosophy would be beneficial to Representative Stubmo for 2014-2016 biennium budget? I would encourage Rep Stumbo to mimic HB 318 by including it in KY 2014-2016 biennium budget. It’s not to late!

    Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

  • viewer wrote on November 22, 2013 02:41 PM :

    Stu Silberman and Terry Holliday are a big part of the problem that Kentucky is facing. Stu is drawing a state retirement pension, and now he is going to work for this outfit to get his people contracts from the state. He is a lobbyist, and surprise, he needs more money.

    Did anyone bring up the salaries at these board offices? Did anyone bring up using I-Pads instead of purchasing books? There is four companies in the U.S. who sell these books; they have a monopoly on it. These same companies pay Silberman and Holliday money to not tell everybody that. The teacher’s unions have become their own worst enemies. It is time to get serious and cut the fat. Yes, we need more funding, but we also have way too much waste in these school districts. I have said it before, Terry Holliday has got to go.

    The other day they showed where superintendents are getting raises and teachers are not. These people have not only out priced themselves, but in doing so they are responsible for hurting the children. I am fine with finding more money to educate our children, but I want to subtract and get back to reality with these high dollar nobodies, with special titles in these board offices. The viewer.

  • Bobby wrote on November 22, 2013 09:43 PM :

    Stumbo says no tax reform next year. What else can you say. The dictator, along with his buddy Beshear have no interest in preserving and improving the minimal gains made in education in the Commonwealth. Their only real interest is to take care of the unions who assist in their reelections. Every time there is a hiccup in education in Kentucky the democrat answer is ALWAYS:“we need more money,” It has been proven over and over that without reforms in the Education Department, the Unions, the classrooms and schoolboards more money WILL NOT solve the problems. Education Reform is the building blocks that will make more money work better but without those reforms it will be more money wasted. When are we going to say to Stumbo, “No more money without appropriate reforms.”

  • REViewer wrote on November 25, 2013 09:06 AM :

    viewer, you are misinformed are some of the issues. The Prichard Committee is non-profit and takes NO money from the state. Also, the same lack of money for textbooks is what is used for ipads and online textbooks and materials.

  • viewer wrote on November 25, 2013 11:36 AM :

    That word NON-Profit is a tricky one. We see that being used a lot now. Its like the new magic word to cover the truth behind the current. The Prichard Committee works hand and hand with the companies the state does business with. No ? All we here from teachers unions is they need money. I’m fine with that. But I also want to hear new ideas , new teaching technics , new vision. Trillions of dollars has been wasted in America with no results to show improvements. Money isn’t the cure all. We need leadership and vision for better education results in America… The viewer

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