Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Look at our most recent college- and career-readiness and graduation rates and you can see the tremendous progress we are making in Kentucky public education.  Our teachers and administrators do an amazing job every day, in spite of the fact they are doing so with less funding.

Educators have told me about the negative effects a drop in per pupil spending is having in the classroom, but I was curious about the real impact it is having on students.  At a recent meeting of my Next-Generation Student Council, I asked students if they had observed any changes in their school or district as the result of state education budget cuts. Here are some of their responses.

• I have a cousin who is a special education student who lost his teacher assistant this year due to budget cuts. My cousin is having a difficult time in class since he does not have the assistant to help.

• Our school eliminated several science classes. My school no longer offers physics due to budget cuts.

• The fees for my science club went up from $30 to $90 this year since the school and district were no longer able to support the club due to state budget cuts.

• My school eliminated several extracurricular clubs due to budget cuts.

• My school eliminated several art and music classes due to budget cuts.

• My school lost a full time librarian due to budget cuts.

• Our computers are slow and the school has no funding to replace them.

• Our internet at school is slow and there is no money to increase bandwidth.

• Class sizes are larger at my school due to budget cuts.

• My school does not have funding to offer several math and science classes that I need for my

future career.

• Our school district told my school they had to increase class size due to budget cuts.

• Our school district eliminated funding for small classes and told our school to focus more on

general education classes that have larger enrollment. I lost several classes I needed for my career interest.

• Students in our automotive technology class lost their instructor and had to take another class.

• My principal said these students would not be able to meet career-ready requirements since they lost the automotive class.

• My calculus textbook is falling apart and teacher says we cannot get replacements due to budget cuts.

It was very painful for me to listen to the reality of budget cuts in our schools. Certainly, it must be very discouraging to our teachers who are taking money out of their own pockets to support what children need in their classrooms. It also is discouraging to students and parents who often have to raise funds in order to provide for basics like school supplies and technology. The most depressing statement comes from the student who is unable to fulfill dreams of being a scientist or an automotive engineer because their school was not able to offer classes the student needed to meet college- and career-ready expectations.

Eighty-eight percent of Kentucky students attend schools in districts where per pupil spending is below the national average. Without additional funding and resources, our educators in Kentucky will soon burn out and student learning will suffer. As we get ready for the 2014 General Assembly, which is charged with determining a budget for the next two years, my number one priority is to share this concern with legislators. At a minimum, I will be pushing for restoration of funding to 2008 levels.

The Kentucky Association School Superintendents and the Kentucky School Boards Association are urging local boards of education to pass and submit a resolution to elected officials highlighting funding concerns. To date, more than 100 boards have done so. The Kentucky Education Association has launched the “Raise Your Hand” campaign in support of public schools. There is a growing grassroots movement across Kentucky to restore funding to education.

At the same time, we must recognize our lawmakers are faced with a difficult situation. There is not enough revenue to fund education and many other services in our state. We must support our lawmakers and work with them to identify new sources of revenue that will allow our schools to continue to make progress and prepare Kentucky’s children to succeed in their future.

I urge teachers, parents and community members to become engaged in these discussions. Reach out to your lawmakers and share your concerns, and let them know what is happening in your schools. My hope is that working cooperatively we will find a solution that will ensure our schools do not lose momentum as they strive to ensure all students graduate high school college- and career- ready, and prepared to achieve their dreams.