Kentucky task force makes recommendations regarding school funding
A legislative panel is recommending the Kentucky General Assembly ensure the state funds all-day kindergarten on a permanent basis when lawmakers return to Frankfort for the 2022 session in two months.
That was one of a dozen recommendations made by the School Funding Task Force, an eight-member special committee comprised of state House and Senate members. The task force was established through the passage of House Bill 405 and was called upon to improve equity among the state’s 171 public school districts.
During the 2021 session, lawmakers also agreed to spend $140 million to fund all-day kindergarten. However, that was only for the current school year.
The recommendations were released during the task force’s meeting this week in Frankfort. They were then sent to House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and the Legislative Research Commission.
Lawmakers created them after holding meetings with state education leaders, district superintendents and board members, legislative staffers and the Southern Regional Education Board.
“K-12 education already accounts for more than two-fifths of our general fund dollars, and our goal is to make sure that funding is invested effectively and equitably,” said state Rep. James Tipton. The Taylorsville Republican co-chaired the task force with state Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville.
Another major recommendation the task force approved was calling on their colleagues to reconsider how school districts are funded. A landmark education reform law passed more than 30 years ago established funding based on daily attendance.
The task force is calling for funding to be based on the average daily membership. That change would give districts a more consistent revenue stream.
Tipton said making that change would not lead to “chronic absenteeism” or make schools less responsible for ensuring kids attend. In addition, he said that schools with higher absentee rates typically have more students whose families face economic hardships.
“Schools exist to educate, and we have truancy laws in place to address attendance issues,” the lawmaker said. “Let’s allow teachers to teach and return the emphasis to instruction. This is a momentous decision to make sound investments that best fund education for all students in Kentucky.”
However, Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Dr. Robbie Fletcher warned that unless funding for schools is increased, making that change will create winners and losers among the state’s districts.
Other recommendations approved include calls to determine how transportation and school safety programs can be fully funded.
The complete list of recommendations can be found here.
Jason Glass, Kentucky’s commissioner of education, said officials are now looking to lawmakers to act on the task force’s suggestions.
“I appreciate the thoughtful work that went into this effort and the recommendations, many of which have been longstanding pain points for school funding in Kentucky,” Glass said.
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