The shock of the recession still lingers in public schools across Kentucky.
The results of a recent report from the Washington D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show that the state currently spends $561 less per student than it did in fiscal year 2008. That’s an inflation adjusted drop of about 11 percent.
But Brad Hughes, a spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, says state legislators are slowly trying to turn that around.
“This underscores how critically important it was that the governor and the generally assembly put some dedicated funds for K-12 schools in the biennial budget for this year and next year,” said Hughes. “We were slipping farther behind other states because of the impact of the recession. Even though this still puts us in the lowest tier at least we are headed in the right direction.”
Hughes said it is going to take some serious work to get back to levels consistent with those prior to the recession.
“We know that public education is going to have keep going, as they did in 2014, again, again and again to the legislature to say ‘it cost more just to do the educational things that kids need to learn.”
In the report Kentucky ranked 37th out of 47 states reviewed in terms of current funding levels compared to those of 2008.
Nearly half of Kentucky’s 173 school districts have increased local property tax rates as much as possible.
The moves come in light of education cuts at both the state and federal levels. Kentucky School Boards Association spokesman Brad Hughes told the Courier-Journal that “districts have no choice” but to turn to local taxpayers in order to find increased funding.
Eighty-one districts in the state have adopted tax rates that will increase revenue by 4 percent. Under Kentucky law, that’s the largest property taxes can be increased without being subject to voter recall.
School officials who have increased local property tax rates say they’re still coming out on the short end despite making the move. The Estill County School Board will see an additional $65,000 from a tax increase approved this year. But officials there are quick to point out that the district's primary state appropriation is down nearly $700,000 compared to 2009.